Old time hardware store closing doors after 88 years

Streamers True Value Hardware Store opened its doors in Cranberry Portage, Man., almost 90 years ago. It has survived two fires and the Great Depression, but age and the drudgery of small business is forcing the brothers who own it to turn off the store's 'Open' light one last time.

Two brothers are closing their family's 88-year-old Cranberry Portage hardware store

Cranberry Portage is losing a little bit of its small town charm.

Streamer's True Value Hardware has been a fixture on the town's Main Street for almost 90 years. It has survived two fires and the Great Depression but now its days are numbered.

The owners haven't set a close date yet but have resigned themselves to the fact that this is the end of an era.

"I'm expecting our last day to be an emotional day. We've got a lot of memories here," said co-owner Wayne Streamer, 64. "I'm going to miss chatting and visiting with customers most. But this is it."

The store is profitable and would've been a good fit for the right owner. Wayne and his brother/business partner Dale tried selling but a deal never came together, Wayne said.

"There was no moment where we decided to close. Just a lot of little things that added up," Wayne said.

Three Generations

Ernest Streamer saw opportunity when he landed in Cranberry Portage and opened the town's first hardware store in 1928.

The store and some of the town burned down in a fire in 1929 and Ernest re-built.

Ernest's son Fergus became his business partner after the young man returned from serving in the Second World War. The store survived a second fire before Fergus sold it to his sons Wayne and Dale in 1978.

"[He] drove a hard bargain. Actually, it was the tax man who said it had to be sold at a fair price," Dale, 59, said.

The business cycle

Business was good for the brothers.
Wayne Streamer, standing left, and his brother/business partner Dale are closing their Cranberry Portage hardware store. The outlet has been in their family for almost 90 years. (Photo courtesy of Dale Streamer)

They catered to townsfolk, summer vacationers as well as to a regular clientele of hunters and trappers, but times began to change.

Malls sprung up northeast in Flin Flon, then it was big box stores. Both combined to draw people away from small towns.Other small stores with names long forgotten disappeared from the rural landscape.

The development initially affected Streamers business but the brothers changed it up in response.

It sold TV's, hunting and fishing gear. It also rented U-Haul trailers and became a licensed liquor retailer.

They also catered to residents who do not have electricity by selling specialty items not readily found elsewhere like oil lamp wicks, glass washboards and campfire coffee percolators.

Change was also happening at another level, though.

The parent companies to which Streamer's was attached changed five times. Each time there was a change, the brothers had to change everything from stock, till system and even the sign outside.

"The sign alone cost $25,000 and it's only good for three years," Dale said. "We weren't going to do all that for a sixth time. I would've if I was 20 years younger but I'm not."

One last time

The brothers are starting to wind the store down now.

They're still serving customers, but they're also readying for when they turn the "Open" sign off one last time.

The brothers have spent the last 37 years tending to other people's needs and now they feel it's time to tend to their own.

They plan to explore their own backwoods and lakes which tourists know better than they do, Wayne said.

A healthy dose of travelling and ice fishing is on the agenda as well.

"There's a lot of thing we've been neglecting to do because we haven't had the time," Dale said.

"It's time for us to enjoy life now."