'Old school' businessman is also one of the nicest
There was plenty of laughter, a few tears and countless good memories shared as friends, family and long-time customers crowded into Dann’s Electronics Saturday for Allan Dann’s retirement party.
The 88-year-old is calling it quits. He’s sold the building and is closing the long-running service and sales operation, which started out as his father, Ernest’s, bicycle repair shop in 1921.
Right to the end, Dann’s Electronics at 5657 176 Street has been an essential component of Cloverdale life, providing families with their first home appliances and TVs, along with an unmatched level of customer service, earning a special spot in people’s hearts.
Friend Alan Clegg said his family’s experience was typical. When he and his wife bought their first home in 1970, they shopped around for a refrigerator and stove before heading to Dann’s.
“When we told Allan we’d like to buy from you, but we can get it cheaper somewhere else, he said, ‘I’ll split the difference with you.’”
Dann delivered the merchandise, too, on a weekend. “So, that’s the kind of guy he was.”
He also recalled Allan Dann making house calls to Clegg’s elderly father.
“Allan would drive up, they’d have a chat. Allan would fix his TV. That’s old school.”
“Just the kind of customer service he would give was wonderful,” added Lorna Clegg, who was part of the procession of well-wishers streaming into the normally spacious showroom Jan. 12.
[As his nephew Michael Bowen watches, Allan Dunn takes a break from his retirement party to fix a bicycle.]
Dann’s decades in Cloverdale as Surrey’s longest-serving businessman, and the fact that he grew up here (his family lived in the apartment above the shop until the 1950s), have made him an “information post” on local history, Alan Clegg said.
“He was also one of the nicest guys you’d ever run into, so he will be missed, for sure,” said Clegg, who served with Dann on the volunteer fire brigade in the 1970s and was one of several former members stopping by.
The Dann generosity was something of a family trademark.
Peggy Hansen, a retired school teacher who started working at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary in 1946, recalled the day she tried to buy a floor polishing machine from Mrs. Dann – Allan’s mother – but couldn’t afford it.
“She said, ‘Pay me a dollar down and a dollar a month.’ I said, ‘Ok.’ So that’s what I did. It took me quite a while to pay it off.”
“We grew up with this store,” added Peggy’s daughter, Dee, who taught at Lord Tweedsmuir from 1974 to 1981. “ I have memories of coming in. It hasn’t changed much!”
Growing up in Cloverdale, everyone’s dad ran a local business (hers owned Hansen Quality Shoes and Repairs Ltd.) or worked at the Cloverdale Co-op, living so close by they walked home for lunch.
“It was really different place back then,” Dee said. “Growing up in a small town is really special. Everybody knows each other. The families used to get together. There wasn’t any TV. You’d actually get together. It was a community, there were dances.”
Ina Vandeburgt remembered coming in for spare vacuum parts or to get her kids’ bikes fixed.
“Time just seems to pass too quickly,” she said, looking around the high-ceilinged-showroom, still populated with vintage TV and stereo equipment, and even an old-model sweeper like one she still owns.
“It was wonderful having a place like this. It always brought back memories. Time kind of stood still here.”
[Allan and Brenda Dann, left, have been married for 62 years.]
Dann’s expertise with a range of electronics, lawnmowers and bikes and possibly unmatched array of replacement parts made the shop a mecca for hobbyists restoring decades-old equipment.
“Everybody’s asking me, ‘Where am I going to go for this or that?’” said Gail Hendrickson, who has worked at Dann’s Electronics since 1976. “I’m like, ‘I don’t know!’”
Allan Dann is also known for a lifetime of involvement in service clubs and community organizations, from the Freemasons, and Junior Chamber of Commerce, to the volunteer fire brigade, where he served for 35 years. He also volunteered with the Cloverdale Rodeo and was a director on the Senior Citizens Housing of South Surrey board.
Bill Reid offered a special thank you on behalf of the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce and the Cloverdale BIA.
“You’ve probably been the most reliable member we’ve had in the Chamber of Commerce since I was involved,” Reid said. “We’re going to miss you very much.”
Then Allan (wearing a name tag that helpfully included the word, ‘self’ should anyone not recognize him) offered a few remarks, allowing that it’s been a trying time for him but that the presence of so many family members meant a lot.
Their four children, grandsons Ben (who works at NASA and lives in Texas) and Dennis (a university student in Victoria), and countless other family members and friends were on hand, sharing stories, admiring the building and occasionally lending a hand with a customer as VCRs and bike repair jobs continued to roll in the door.
“People just came and we appreciate that, Brenda and I,” he said, beckoning to his wife of 62 years.
“If it wasn’t for this lady beside me here, I don’t think I’d be here. We’ve had our moments, up and down,” he said.
“All through life, you have your ups and downs, but in the end, pretty good. Really good. Especially in a town like Cloverdale.”
– Dann’s Electronics closes after 91 years on Jan. 24.
For more coverage, visit our Facebook page, where a family friend has shared a photo album of Allan’s retirement party, called 'Dann's in Cloverdale Marks End of an Era' where there are some family moments, photos of the eclectic shop, and some other interesting tidbits.