The new owners of Canadian Tire have rolled into town and are discovering what a gem of a community Smithers is.
Steve and Angie Westgate took over over the store on August 6 and said the transition has been smooth.
The couple, originally from Ontario have been slowly making their way out west.
They applied to be a dealer 13 years ago, and their first store was in London, Ontario before moving to Hinton Alberta and then Calgary.
Steve said they were excited about the opportunity to own the store in Smithers, which he called a good career move to a busy store.
“The store we built in Calgary was a new concept, it was an urban-type store,” he said. “It did very well, but Smithers was a better opportunity that came to us and we took advantage.”
Not only was the store calling them but so was the town. The couple visited Smithers in January to check out the store.
“We were shocked when we got here, we couldn’t believe how beautiful it is,” he said. “We spend a lot of nights just driving around. It is a shame that more people don’t know about it, or maybe that is better.”
Owning a Canadian Tire store wasn’t always on Westgate’s radar and he said he fell into the industry almost by accident.
“I went to school to be an accountant and through my first and second summers I worked at an accounting firm to get experience,” he said. “But I just couldn’t stand sitting behind a desk all day long every day. So my last summer I got a part-time job at a Canadian Tire and it grew on me.”
He added the unique aspect of Canadian Tire is that it feels like it is five businesses in one. “There’s an automotive business, there is a seasonal department, there is a hardware and paint department, there is a sport department with a nice pro shop. You can never get bored, there is always something different to do every day.”
He said so far the transition into owning this store has been seamless.
“I’m very fortunate,” he said. “Sometimes when there is a change of ownership, the owner leaving will take a few key people with him to a new store but I was fortunate that we could retain the staff and management.”
While he wasn’t nervous making an investment during a health pandemic, he did feel the pressure to be a good boss.
“The 50 or so people that work here, I am the new one. I want to make a good impression on the staff and the community. In western Canada, people know what to do, there are good systems in place and the community of Smithers is pretty well informed. All the other businesses in town seem to have good protocols in place too.”
There have already been some changes made to the store. The hours have expanded to be open 8-8 Monday to Saturday and 9-6 on Sundays.
“It showed last Sunday, it was the second time we were open those extended hours and I can’t tell you the customer count, but the sales we rang through between 9 and 10, just in that new hour, was unbelievable to us.”
The Westgates are also wanting to make an effort to bring in more products and grow the business.
“It is a busy community,” he said. “In Canadian Tire we are given the opportunity to bring products in that aren’t typical Canadian Tire products. For example, I’ve brought in bedsheets and pillows. There is no Walmart and limited competition here so I want to show the community some products that aren’t normally in a Canadian Tire, but things that they need.”
The Westgates are excited to have moved into town. Although they have recently become empty nesters. Their two sons, 20 and 24 are living in different provinces. One is playing junior hockey in Saskatchewan and the other just finished university and is working in Alberta.
“Once the pandemic lifts, we want to engage with the community and give back,” he added. “The community has been good to Canadian Tire, I can see with the history of what has happened with Canadian Tire and the sales we’ve been experiencing this month and last, it has been good.”