Nfld. & Labrador

Old store, new life: How plants and patterns are reviving a historic St. John's building

A well-known garden shop and a brand new quilting store are putting some new life into the Templeton's building, which sat mostly empty for more than two years.

The 150-year-old Templeton's building has some new tenants

Templeton's operated in the building for 150 years, but before that it was used by T. Hallett Ltd. as seen in this undated photo found inside. The photo was taken before Harbour Drive was created and the building was right on the harbour. (Submitted by Jackson McLean)

A downtown St. John's building that was home to a hardware store for more than 150 years is now welcoming new customers, with two new businesses opening up and working together — and possibly more on the way. 

The Templeton's building, sitting between Water Street and Harbour Drive, housed Templeton's hardware store, selling paint and flooring to townies for over a century.

But due to a sluggish economy and an increase in competition, Templeton's closed up shop in early 2017, leaving the iconic building that bears the family's name sitting mostly empty.

Templeton's was open for 150 years. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Now, the old building is seeing some new life with the East Coast Quilting Co. occupying the Water Street side of the building and the Seed Company by E.W. Gaze moving into the old Templeton's warehouse on Harbour Drive.

Stitching together

The East Coast Quilting Co. is a consortium of fabric and quilting businesses — the Fabric Merchant, Sew Many Stitches and the Quilted Stash — that have pooled their inventory, skills and experience into one company, under one roof.

Corey Follett, left, and Debbie Northover are among the group of business owners who merged to form the East Coast Quilting Co. (Francesca Swann/CBC)

Corey Follett, one of the company's owners, says each of the businesses bring different strengths in training and experience.

"We all bring something different to this giant quilt that we've made together," Follett said.

"It was the perfect coming together of four people."

These are some of the more than 1,500 different kinds of fabric on offer at the East Coast Quilting Co. (Francesca Swann/CBC)

The store stocks more than 1,500 different types of fabric and offers quilting classes as well as sewing machine sales and repairs.

Follett said there is plenty of interest in quilting in St. John's to support the large store.

"This isn't confirmed, but I have also heard from a distributor that we may be the largest quilting store east of Alberta," he said. 

The building's long history also adds a special charm to the store, Follett said.

With the Seed Company downstairs, and the possibility of Wooden Walls Distillery setting up shop in the future, it's becoming a hot spot for local business. 

"Just being in this building brings a richness in tradition and character," he said.

"Below us is Gaze Seeds, our new neighbours — we figure if the distillery moves into the space directly below us, we will have cornered the market. It's a one stop shop for some quilters."

Co-owner Debbie Northover said that connection with other shops is a big benefit.

"By being downtown, we're going to build partnerships with some of the local businesses and encourage the growth of those businesses as well," she said.

Transplanting business

While the quilting shop is new to shoppers, the Seed Company by E.W. Gaze, originally called Gaze Seed Company, has been open in the downtown since 1925.

Gaze Seed Co. first opened on Water Street in St. John's in 1925. Now rebranded as the Seed Company by E.W. Gaze, times are a little different. (Facebook/TheSeedCompanyNL)

Peter Byrne, owner and great-grandson of founder Ernest Gaze, said the store's new retail space is double the size of its old location on Buchanan Street, making room to bring in some new products.

The original post and beam construction and other signs of the building's history have also been made a part of the new store.

"The workmanship that's in this building — you would never be able to get it done today," said Byrne.

Now painted black, these beams inside the Seed Company space are original to the building. (Submitted by Jackson McLean)

Another local business in the same building has been a benefit, Byrne said, with the two stores sharing shoppers.

"We're bouncing customers back and forth off of each other. We had people in our store yesterday that didn't know the quilting shop existed upstairs," he said.

"We send customers up to them and they've sent customers down to us.… We're just getting our groove going as two destination shops coexisting in the same building."

And Byrne said the Seed Company is leaving room for future additions to the new local retail hub.

"We purposely left open a door so that we could coexist with the distillery if the distillery moves ahead," he said.

"I think this is an excellent move for Gaze Seed Company."

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With files from On The Go