Business

After a century in business, Trail company closes its doors

Many times a business will refer to the location of its offices or shops as being its “home” office or the “home” of whatever ware or service they might offer to the public.

In the case of J. Balfour and Sons, Plumbing and Heating, their shop on Cedar Avenue in Trail actually was the single-story, family home, sandwiched between the original Trail Times building and the Trail Hospital, when Scottish immigrant, John Balfour, started his plumbing business in 1912.

It has remained the location for the Balfour family business continuously since that time.

“My grandfather came from Scotland and he worked at the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada (later Cominco and Teck Metals) for a time,” said, Jack Balfour, the latest of the Balfour clan to work as a plumber from the location. “He and a guy named Plumm started Balfour and Plumm, Plumbing, Heating and Sanitary Engineers.”

John’s two sons, Gordon (Scotty) and Alex (Brick) began working with their father, resulting in the current name of the business, carried on the operation after his retirement and built the existing Balfour building in 1948 on the same site.

The building, which was considered a thoroughly modern work at the time according to the Trail Times story of the day, had the plumbing and heating shops and storefront on the main floor and housed the offices of the city’s school board, inspector of schools, and public health nurse on the second floor.

Current owners Jack and Joanne Balfour purchased the business in 1978 and maintained the thriving enterprise in the same spot until formally closing the doors in January.

Balfour said his father and uncle were wary of taking on too big of a job because, if the job went bad, it could cause the core business to fail and Jack and Joanne maintained much the same philosophy, focusing on residential and light commercial work.

Now, citing the difficulty of keeping apprentices with the pull of the Alberta oil and gas industry drawing any available trades people with large pay cheques, the two have decided to retire the business.

“I enjoyed it, I want to just enjoy life now,” said Jack. “Buy I’ve still got mixed feelings.”

Joanne echoes the struggle of seeing an institution close.

“I wish I had kept a book of some of the things we’ve seen over the years,” she said. “I’ve cried a lot of tears coming to this but we’d just like to thank the community for their support over the years. It’s time to pass this business on to a new owner so maybe the tradition will continue.”

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