Burns Lake Home Hardware celebrates 87 years

The Home Hardware on the corner of Centre St. and Hwy. 16 has been there for 87 years.

Jack and Greg Brown out front of their Burns Lake Home Hardware store

Walking into the Burns Lake Home Hardware last Saturday afternoon, local resident Garth Schienbein was looking for a part for his RV water pump.

Jack Brown was paying a visit to the hardware store his family has owned now for three generations, or 87 years of continual service in Burns Lake. He noticed Schienbein, and walked over to see if he could help him find what he was looking for.

After realizing the specialized part wasn’t available, Jack asked Schienbein to wait a moment while he ran home to see if he had the part somewhere in his garage.

“Jack doesn’t do retired very well,” said Schienbein. “He’s always been this way.”

The Home Hardware on the corner of Centre St. and Hwy. 16 has been there for 87 years. Jack Brown is the second generation of Browns to own the store. His father, Jack S. Brown established it with partners in the 1920s. Now, Jack’s son Greg runs the day-to-day store operations.

It wasn’t always a Home Hardware. It started out as the Burns Lake Hardware Store, became a Marshall- Wells Hardware store, a Macleod’s Hardware store, and then finally a Home Hardware franchise in 1985.

Every business decision the Brown family has made concerning the stores affiliation has been determined by how they understood Burns Lake.

“We left Macleod’s when they went down the superstore route, similar to the Walmart philosophy of piling everything up and selling it cheap,” Jack explained. “That’s okay in the city, but in small markets it doesn’t do you any good. We don’t have the volume of traffic you would need to run a discount style store.”

By joining Home Hardware, the Browns were able to cut out the middle man.

“Home Hardware is dealer-owned buying group,” Jack explained. “The wholesale end of it works just to break even. There’s no middle-man mark up.”

By eliminating the extra profit margin a normal wholesale supplier would be looking for, the Burns Lake Home Hardware is able to stay reasonably competitive in a market where big box stores in Prince George draw local shoppers away.

“People like to shop out of town, especially when you have something else to do in the city,” Jack said. “It’s just a fact of life.”

“But for many things when you figure out your true cost of going to Prince George just to shop – the cost of travel, and wear-and-tear on your vehicle – there’s no great savings.”

“Sometimes you just don’t have the choice of things here that you have in Prince George,” Jack added. “When I go to Prince George for another reason, I’ll do some shopping.”

There was a time when an automotive garage and dealership operated out of the location.

“There used to be a garage and a GM dealership here, in the back half of the store,” Jack said. “Up where the bottle depot is now used to be the car lot.”

“It was a four-line dealership,” Jack said. “The only car they didn’t sell here was the Cadillac line.”

The Browns got out of the auto dealership business in 1982, selling the dealership business to a buyer from Vancouver.

But the dealership suffered from an inability to understand the local market.

“They could have brought in more just off-lease cars and sold them at a discount,” he explained. “Instead, they thought everybody should have the fanciest cars and the fanciest pick-ups.  He could have done very well if he would have just sold the cars people wanted.”

With the end of the garage and the dealership in the middle 1980s, Jack expanded the hardware store to the dimensions we now see when we go inside.

“We used to have a furniture showroom back here, but eventually the demand for hardware meant we expanded it into the whole store.”

“Burns Lake is fortunate to have as a large a hardware store as this one to serve its population,” Jack said. “We’ve kept putting back into the business to grow it to the size it is now.”

Community involvement has been a big part of Home Hardware’s presence in Burns Lake. Jack is a Burns Lake Rotary member, member of the Burns Lake Community Foundation, and has served in many different volunteer capacities in town.

“My father was a [volunteer] member of the board of directors during the construction of the first hospital in Burns Lake, and now I sit on the current board for the new hospital project.”

First-rate service, knowing your market, re-investing locally, and being a strong community supporter are some of the main ingredients for a successful 87 years in Burns Lake.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vehicles waiting for the highway to reopen. (Shashank Bangera photo/Lakes District News)
Vehicle incident claims life on Highway 16 east of Burns Lake

The accident resulted in highway closure

The victim of a homicide in Houston is Pietro Adamo. (Photo courtesy the RCMP)
Man dies from injuries following assault

Investigators looking for information on this homicide

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals.
‘Where is Annita McPhee?’: Cullen under fire from opening salvo of all-candidates forum

Four Stikine candidates spar during online debate from Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers

(Wet'suwet'en Access Point on Gidimt'en Territory Facebook screenshot)
Ceremony a right at proposed CGL pipeline drill site: BC Union of Indian Chiefs

Indigenous land defenders cannot be criminalized and targeted, argues UBCIC

(File graphic)
Man dies in Gitlaxt’aamiks (New Aiyansh) after being taken into police custody

IIO and BC Corners Service conducting independent investigations

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry answers questions during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. sees record-breaking daily COVID infections with 499 new cases over weekend

Two people, both in the Lower Mainland, died due to the virus over the weekend

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read