Business

Sears celebrates 60 years in Burnaby

Sears president and CEO Doug Campbell, right, chats with the general manager of the Burnaby store, Art Evans, and Marie Taylor, who worked in human resources and hired all the staff for the location when it first opened 60 years ago. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Sears president and CEO Doug Campbell, right, chats with the general manager of the Burnaby store, Art Evans, and Marie Taylor, who worked in human resources and hired all the staff for the location when it first opened 60 years ago.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

Patricia Williscroft was so excited about the new Sears department store that opened in Burnaby 60 years ago, she walked all the way from her home at 50th and Fir in Vancouver to check out the hubbub.

Thursday she cut the cake to celebrate the store's 60th anniversary.

"The crowds were incredible," said Williscroft of that opening day. "We wondered where all the people came from."

Now 87 years-old, she's furnished several homes with appliances and furniture from the Burnaby Sears store.

In fact, Williscroft said, "if Sears took everything back I've bought here, I'd have a very empty apartment."

It's that kind of loyalty that Sears Canada CEO Doug Campbell praised as he chatted with customers like Williscroft and longtime employees, some of whom have worked at the Burnaby location for more than 30 years.

Campbell said the Burnaby store was the company's first "Grade A" full service department store in Canada even though the city was then a distant, mostly-rural suburb to Vancouver. And it's that kind of bold innovation that will fuel its redevelopment of the Metrotown site occupied by the store into a new residential and commercial adjunct to the Metropolis at Metrotown shopping mall.

"We continue to innovate in the community," said Campbell, of the five condo and two office towers, as well as a new flagship department store the company is proposing to build on the 8.9-acre parcel of land it owns along Kingsway. "The next store will take us through to our 100th anniversary."

Burnaby councillor Sav Dhaliwal said given Sears' history in Burnaby, the redevelopment project could be another launching pad for the city.

"Long before there was Metrotown, there was Sears," said Dhaliwal. "It's hard to imagine what Burnaby would be like without Sears. They were the anchor for this growth."

It's all a little grand for Williscroft to imagine.

She still shops there twice a week.

"You never think of going anywhere else," she said.

 

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