New Brunswick·FEATURE

Saint John china shop carries on 161-year tradition

Hayward and Warwick would have closed in 2012 when the Hayward family bowed out of the business — if long-term employees Royden and Suzan McKillop hadn’t jumped in and continued the shop’s legacy.

No longer city's longest-running family-owned business, Hayward and Warwick finds new life with new family

Hayward and Warwick’s new owners have added a contemporary touch to the longtime storefront on Princess Street. (Julia Wright/CBC)

As a teenager in 1966 Saint John, Royden McKillop was hired by Hayward and Warwick as a box boy to sweep floors, clean shelves and unpack crates.

He got to know fifth-generation owners Mark and David Hayward well, according to his wife, Suzan McKillop.

"They called him the third brother," she said.

Fifty years later, McKillop still works at 85 Princess St., a lengthy career, by any stretch. But the name painted in elegant black-and-white capitals across the shop's 19th-century signboard dates back much, much further.

When the Hayward family bowed out of the china business, longtime employees Suzan and Royden McKillop stepped in. (Julia Wright/CBC)
Hayward and Warwick was founded in 1855 by brothers-in-law William Henry Hayward and William Warwick on Prince William Street, where the pair sold "crockery, oil lamps, bean pots and butter churns, and china," said Royden.

"They were famous for big mixing bowls, like your mother probably still has." 

After that location burned in the Great Fire of 1877, they built a new shop on Princess Street.

"It's been here ever since," said Suzan.

Saved from closure

In a province obsessed with attracting new business, Hayward and Warwick, like many of Saint John's mom-and-pop shops, has withstood the slow battering of a sluggish economy, an aging population and the rise of big box stores.

But the store almost vanished from the retail landscape. With sales reaching a critical ebb, and the next generation of Haywards uninterested in carrying on the business, the former owners announced in 2012 that they intended to close.

The building was sold to Historica Developments and its sprawling, 35,000-square-foot warehouse was transformed into 27 hip apartments. Developer Keith Brideau dubbed the condos the Warehouse in honour of the site's retail roots.

Chagrined by the thought of losing their longtime workplace forever, the McKillops reached an agreement to purchase Hayward and Warwick in June 2013.

They now rent the space from Brideau, whom they describe as a "great help."

Still a family affair

In a romantic twist to an age-old Saint John story, Suzan and Royden fell in love at the china shop.

"She was working in the retail and I was working in the office," said Royden.

"I used to call him my guardian angel," said Suzan. "He was always watching over things from the back room."

Suzan and Royden McKillop have brightened up the shop and its wares since taking over. (Julia Wright/CBC)
The couple, who celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary in early October, agree that one of the best aspects of the business is "meeting people, and being together all the time."

Hayward and Warwick draws much of its clientele from "the same families that have been coming for generations," said Suzan, adding many customers, now grandparents themselves, recall coming into the store as children.

Keeping things vibrant in any century-and-a-half-old business can be challenging.

The McKillops painted the shop's dark, interior wood wall panelling white with a light turquoise trim. Outside, tourists are encouraged to take photos in a row of candy-coloured chairs set up below the original 19th-century sign.

It's a point of pride for him, Royden said, that "people from all over the world have sat in these chairs."

Local customers, however, have been the shop's lifeblood.

"[Saint John] values our old names and our old businesses," Royden said.

Evolving tastes

While Hayward and Warwick still carries the same Royal Doulton figurines and fine crystal it has for decades, the store has added Vera Wang bone china, Noritake Colorwave stoneware and local art and jewelry to update the inventory.

The old-school shop has also developed a pleasant symbiosis with Elwood's Wood Lab, a relative newcomer to Princess Street.

Royden McKillop started work at Hayward and Warwick in 1966 and now owns the store, with his wife, Suzan. (Julia Wright/CBC)
Since the uptown carpentry outpost, specializing in trendy, upcycled hand-carved furniture, opened in 2015, the McKillops have noticed more folks wandering in.

"Elwood's has been good for business," said Royden.

New or old, whether a business can "keep customers coming back,"  has mostly to do with service, Royden said. "People like to shop online these days, but there can be problems with that. If you have an issue or something isn't right, we can deal with it right away."

"There's one customer who lives at the Admiral Beatty [senior citizen's complex] and Royden drives up to pick her up, then he drives her back home," said Suzan, offering a literal interpretation of the phrase "going the extra mile."

As for their own retirement plans, the couple remain coy.

"It's part of me now," Royden said. "I've been here for 50 years. I just can't get it out of my blood."

Saint John is known as an industrial hub that lives and dies on major projects; however, small businesses, just as much as multibillion-dollar industries, have shaped fabric of the 231-year-old city.

In a province obsessed with attracting new business — and where hefty development incentives don't always translate into long-term success — many of Saint John's mom-and-pop shops have managed to withstand the slow battering of a sluggish economy, an aging population and the rise of big box stores.

Small businesses employ 25,000 to 29,000 Saint Johners among Chamber of Commerce members alone - and cumulatively, over 8.2 million individuals in Canada. Small businesses make up about 70 per cent of the total private labour force, according to Statistics Canada.


Julia Wright

Host, Information Morning Saint John

Julia Wright is the host of Information Morning Saint John on CBC Radio 1. She previously worked as a digital reporter focused on stories from southwestern New Brunswick. She has a master's degree in English from McGill University, and has been with the CBC since 2016. You can reach her at