Iconic western-wear business Riley & McCormick to close after 115 years
'We've had a rough go the last couple of years and it's just time,' Brian Guichon says
This story was originally published Aug. 16.
Calgary's iconic western wear purveyor Riley & McCormick — which is one of Alberta's oldest businesses, founded in 1901 as a saddlery — is riding into the sunset.
"The costs keep going up and the sales seem to have gone down. We've had a tough couple of years here," owner Brian Guichon told CBC News.
The store on Calgary's Stephen Avenue will close on Aug. 30.
Before this year's Stampede, Guichon said sales were down because of the economic slump and that he was hoping the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth would provide a boost.
But relentless rain resulted in about 80,000 fewer people heading to the grounds or shopping downtown on their way there.
"It was one of the worst Stampedes for local business we've had in a long time ... The decision was not made easily. We knew that this was a make or break Stampede for us."
Guichon says the closing of the store on Calgary's downtown pedestrian avenue, with its wooden horse out front, means the city is losing a bit of its identity.
"I guess in a lot of respects we were a cultural icon," he said.
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Guichon's grandfather Eneas McCormick co-founded the business as a saddlery with William James Riley, in 1901 — before Alberta was even officially a province.
It has been a part of every Stampede since the first one in 1912.
"History has passed by the doors of Riley & McCormick stores — pioneer missionary Father Lacombe for supplies for his orphanage, military saddles ordered for the Russian Cavalry in WWI," the store's website says.
McCormick went on to found CFCN radio, and was elected as a Calgary alderman and deputy mayor.
'Nothing lasts forever'
Guichon said more taxes, an increased minimum wage and inflexible landlords all helped pile on the business costs, while the emptying-out of downtown offices and fewer people wearing western gear bit into sales.
"There's always going to be a segment of the market that will wear western clothing and products ... Just not as many as there used to be."
"It's kind of sad, but nothing lasts forever," he said.
Riley & McCormick is hardly the only business to have closed this year in Calgary.
The city recorded 3,532 business that had shut down or moved in the first six months of the year, a small uptick from the 3,342 that closed in the first half of last year, and the 3,209 in the first half of 2013 at the height of the energy boom.
At the same time, the number of new business licenses is also up at 3,804 for the first half of this year compared with 3,511 in the same time frame last year, with the city attributing the increase to more home-based and consulting businesses.
The company's airport location lease runs until the end of the year, but its fate is uncertain beyond that.
"We hope to carry it on there ... we'll see," Guichon said.
With files from The Canadian Press