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All recent colour photos courtesy of David Mah

95 years!



Recognizing the Northern’s Longest-Serving Employees... Betty Alborn – Betty started working in the office in 1972. She remembers writing invoices by hand, then using manual typewriters and eventually computers. She learned to use telex, fax and e-mail for communication. Her memory about the equipment is that it has reduced so much in size as the years went by. After she started working at AMCO in 1985, her horizons really expanded because she had to learn “just about everything!” AMCO was created as the Northern Hardware’s wholesale division after the company purchased the assets of Marshall Wells in 1973. AMCO is a subsidiary of The Northern Hardware. It was a name chosen by Ted Moffat as a tribute to his Grandfather. It represents “Alex Moffat Company.”

Glen Blair – As a child in the Moffat family, Glen first worked in the store at 12, as is the family tradition. He remembers working in the Bike Shop. After he finished college, he began working full time in 1989 as a clerk in the Hardware Department. In 1999, he transferred to AMCO and now manages that wholesale supply business. He deals with the construction industry and also provides industrial supplies to mines, pulp mills and other industries. When asked about his long career with the company, Glen responds “The family legacy keeps me here. A lot of affection for the place comes from watching the way my Grandfather, Harold Moffat, worked. He led by example. I am also proud to be part of the fourth generation in the company.” Glen agrees that The Northern’s most important asset is its employees. He is looking forward to continue working and anticipates celebrating the company’s 100th anniversary in 2019.

Lynne Boulier – When Lynne began working at The Northern in 1992, she was one of the few women in the Furniture Department. The work was pleasant, but there was a lot of work to writing receipts and maintaining stock control records by hand. The computerized system came in 1998 which was much more efficient. She loved all aspects of the work and brought a real appreciation of colour and design from years of experience in the furniture business. Lynne was promoted to Furniture Department Manager and has enjoyed that responsibility, including purchasing. “This has been the best working experience ever. I am forever indebted to The Northern and the Moffat family, which has become part of my family.” She believes that one of the best parts of her job is meeting people and especially delights in getting to know her customers.

Dennis Busby – Dennis first worked in sales at The Northern’s Furniture Department in 1986. After six years, he took two years off. When Ted Moffat found out Dennis had come back in 1994, he got in touch and recruited him back. After four more years working in furniture sales, Dennis was promoted to Manager of the Appliance Division. That involved overseeing a warehouse and a small sales area within the main store. Shortly after that, The Northern’s warehouse at First Avenue and Queensway was fixed up and the large appliances were moved there. There was also space for a clearance area for furniture. He is quick to explain why he has worked for The Northern for so long: “The Moffats take you under their wing and you become family, not just an employee.” The staff also feels that connection with each other. “Other longterm employees have made lifelong friendships.” He is especially pleased to have exceptional sales staff in Robb Tedford and Julie Tucker. “I get lots of compliments about the Appliance Department, but it’s the people I get to work with. We all work as a team here.”

Keep calm and



Moffat on


or 95 years, Northern Hardware has been run by one family, passed down through four generations. For Kelly Green, the current CEO of the company and the next branch on the tall Moffat family tree, it is not a business at all. It is home. She grew up running around the aisles, playing with the store’s toys, getting tossled on the head by the staff, and watching everyone in her circle of loved ones also spend their days inside those busy downtown walls. Kelly still remembers many times being in the store with her grandfather, the iconic Harold Moffat, who did double duty as the city’s mayor for 10 years. Harold, born in 1915, kept coming to work well into the 21st century and the only thing keeping him from showing up for tomorrow was passing away in 2009 at the age of 93. (His wife Helen is still celebrating birthdays. She’s had one more than the store itself.) That work ethic was passed on to his son,Ted.Although Harold would still be in his office at The Northern on a regular basis, it was Ted who ran the operations during Kelly’s formative years. At 73 years old, he was still the boss in 2013 when he passed away, but with enough forewarning to help Kelly transition into the role. “I had lots of really good talks with dad. I was able to ask him some of the hard questions,” she said.“He told me some things about business that were most important for him, things he wanted me to especially know. I wish we could have had 100 more of those, but he told me you have to be fair, kind and honest in business, and no matter how hard it might seem, you had to just show up in the morning and open the doors. You had to get on with your day because when you run a store like ours a lot of people were counting on you.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re buying something for five cents or $500, you get treated with the same respect. That kind of heart, and all the quality products, year after year, makes this a gathering place for people,” said Boulier.

Some of those people are family. Many of the Moffat kin have pulled on the Northern Hardware uniform. Five of them still do: Kelly, Blair Moffat, Dan Moffat, Glen Blair, and Diane Froescul. All are in management positions. Some of their valued staff are as close as family could be. Secretarytreasurer Hilliard Clare is at the top of the list. He has been coming to work at The Northern since 1945 and even though he could have left it all behind for leisure time, and he could have been replaced in some ways by a computer, both sides of this arrangement are happier seeing each other each day. “There is a big difference between needing to be here and wanting to be here,” said Kelly. “Grandpa Harold, dad, they wanted to be here, and Mr. Clare wants to be here. Cousin Blair wants to be here. I want to be here. I’ve only been CEO for a year but I already look forward to the next day, and I’m at the point already where I am looking at the five-year plan and planning the 100th birthday of the store. It’s not just the work, it is the people, and not just the people you work with. Mr. Clare has told me that a lot. He enjoys the customers, and we all enjoy his company too, so yes there are things to do to run a business but this place is also where you spend time with your family. It is a social environment for all of us.” After more than 20 years in the furniture department, another

Kelly Green

Glen, Diane, Blair, Kelly, and Dan longtime employee is set to retire. Kelly said she is already expecting Lynne Boulier to lovingly devise a plan to still come in for part-time shifts. “It doesn’t matter if you’re buying something for five cents or $500, you get treated with the same respect. That kind of heart, and all the quality products, year after year, makes this a gathering place for people,” said Boulier. “In the early years, the store was here for people at the end of World War One, through the Great Depression, through World War Two, as the city formed out of a bunch of little sawmills. In the 1950s a lot of people were moving here and they would come into town from the really small towns nearby like Penny, and business was done on a handshake. I’ve heard story after story, being in here hearing people talk, that they never would have survived or their business would have gone bust if it weren’t for The Northern. People left their valuables in the store safe, they got through on credit until they got paid for their work, we would cash their cheques, we would even do loan arrangements like a bank. That’s how The Northern became such a part of the city. I’m proud I got to be part of that for so long.” Kelly said it is easy to look at a store that has been in the same

downtown location, almost on the same spot for 95 years and consider it set in its ways. Nothing could be further from the truth.The only way it has survived was by shedding established ideas in favour of new ones. “Dad was an innovator,” she said. “He brought in computers and that changed the way the store did business. You do things the old fashioned way, but you do things that are current.You have to fit your products and services with the customers, and they are not stuck in the past. Customers keep you moving forward.” “We have customers come in now who are young and they know how to research,” said Lynne. “They might know more about your products than you do, so you work with that. You learn and have discussions and help them get to what they want. It’s too easy to order things online, so you have to be that personal connection, and I think that’s important to people no matter how old they are or what the year is.” “People see that we’re a Home Hardware and they come in expecting that image, and they discover we are so much more than that,” said Diane Froescul. She took a year off once, but otherwise she has been working at The Northern since she was 15. She (daughter of

John and Elsie Moffat) and cousin Blair Moffat (son of Keith and Margaret) are the last of the third generation connections. Both called Harold uncle and Alex grandpa. “I look at Kelly, stepping in as boss, and I am excited about what’s going to happen here. Her dad would be so proud. He was so proud.We all think the store is in just excellent hands. She doesn’t have to turn anything around, or fix any big problems, she knows how The Northern is run. She just has to be herself.” “I think it’s going to be a great future,” said Lynne Boulier. “You have young people here, they have energy but also their experience with the store. They have a drive to keep refreshing the store, but retaining what’s good about how The Northern has always been run. The products can change, but keeping them good-quality, and treating people well never goes out of style.” “I’m excited about the future no matter what it holds,” said Kelly. “I know I’m not going to get everything just right, but I have such amazing staff support and family support, and this community I can feel it behind The Northern, so I’m amazed about that and I am planning already for our 100th anniversary here.” Courtesy of Frank Peebles, Citizen staff



Recognizing the Northern’s Longest-Serving Employees... Janie Currie – Janie remembers exactly when she started working at The Northern: October 5th, 1983. First assigned to the section of the store which sells cleaning products and equipment, she moved to the Gardening Department where she worked with Eric Chadwyck. Eventually, managing that area became her responsibility. After that, a retirement created an opening in the Giftware Department. That was particularly enjoyable and a nice bonus was to accompany Ted Moffat’s wife, Gloria, on buying trips for the store. Janie says Ted Moffat was a good boss and a good person to work for. When October comes around this year, it will mean she’s worked for The Northern for 31 years and considers that it is time to retire. She will take with her fond memories of those decades because “It’s been a great place to work and shop.” Diane Froescul – Her career at The Northern began in 1985 with varied experience in several departments. Eventually, she was assigned to work in the Appliance Centre and currently serves in Administration as the Office Manager. As a family member and someone with her own family, she always appreciated Ted Moffat’s dedication to “family first,” meaning that home life took precedence whenever that was necessary. She says that has made it easy for her to make a transition from home life to work. Diane enjoys being part of the “Northern Family” as well as knowing she is descended from dedicated entrepreneurs. “I am extremely proud of my Grandfather, A.B. Moffat, as well as all my family members with whom I’ve worked over the years.” She maintains a strong attachment to her work “home.”

Blair Moffat – Like all the Moffats, Blair got his first working experience at the store as a child in the 1960s. He came to work at The Northern full-time in 1974 assembling the CCM bikes. His own bike was the dream machine of the day – a CCM Mustang Banana Seat bike! His Uncle Corky became his mentor in the Paint Department where Blair learned all about colours, mixing and paint quality. The store carried the Brandram-Henderson (B-H) paint imported from England. Eventually, the CIL brand was carried and that meant re-learning the stock. Later in that decade, Blair moved to the Sporting Goods Department and learned all about that equipment. Eventually, he worked all over the entire HAROLD MOFFAT store. When asked about the rewarding aspects of the work, Blair says it was associating with his was mayor of uncles and the other employees and valued the camaraderie and friendship. While the old values Prince George remain, changes in modern life have caused a transi1970 - 1979 tion in some stock. He explains that some changes are coming because there are not the number of hobby farmers any more: “We are starting to phase out the horse tack and items like chicken wire and egg incubators. People used to come in to have us design their well systems, but those are not created as much any more.”


Recognizing the Northern’s Longest-Serving Employees...

DAN MOFFAT – The last one who expected Dan Moffat to have an administrative office at The Northern was Dan Moffat. He grew up in his father’s (grandfather’s, great-grandfather’s) store. His first job ever was in the store’s bike shop in the early 1980s. But Dan was interested in other pursuits, and he went so far as Alberta to try them out, being an ironworker and working in the oil patch. “I think people who leave Prince George often come back,” he said. “I missed this place more than you could ever imagine. That caught me off guard. When I was away in Alberta, I couldn’t wait  to get back here.” Dan has been the captain of the Sporting Goods and Outdoor Adventures departments for years. These are dynamic elements of the store, with constant evolutions in equipment and public interest. He said the way to stay abreast is to do these activities yourself so you can be knowledgeable on a practical level, not just theory. “We have our gang of dedicated, faithful fly fishermen,” he said. “We are the best at what we do by far. We have to be, because they are the best at what they do. Anybody can sell a fishing rod. But we can take you all the way to hooking you up with guides and cabins. It suits my personal lifestyle perfectly,” he said.  He is in charge of store purchasing and staff safety protocols and his office is located only a short cast away from the fishing supplies where he is never more than a few feet from his fellow outdoor adventurers. Peter Mueller – Peter has worked at The Northern for 38 years. He started working downstairs in the bike shop in 1976 where he had the fun of assembling bicycles, doing repairs, and also sharpening ice skates. His next work was upstairs on the main floor in the Automotive and Sporting Goods departments. For the last two decades, he’s worked in Hardware and has held a managerial position for the past four years. “I’ve seen a lot of changes in my time. Getting a new point-ofsale computer system (ProfitMaster) was a big change because, before that, we had to write all of our invoices manually.” He also remembers when the store was open just five days a week before falling in line with other retail stores as a business open every day of the week. Much of Peter’s work is behind-the-scenes as he works on computers and checks the electrical, heating and lighting systems which keep the store operating. A fun job is to maintain Champion, the mechanical horse, which had delighted children through the decades at just ten cents a ride! “What hasn’t changed is our service to customers. I enjoy serving our customers and, with a lot of them, we are on a first-name basis.” Peter knows that people come to the store to find things that just aren’t sold anywhere else. He also believes that what Harold Moffat said over the years is true: “If we don’t have it; you don’t need it.” Patricia Soles – Her career began 28 years ago when she began working in the horse tack department with Harold Moffat. Later, she moved to the front of the store working the front counter with Dolly Heugh, Corky Moffat and John Moffat. “We worked hard but also had many laughs and good times. We had great fun one year when the store entered the city’s Winter Parade. The staff dressed up in animal costumes and walked the parade route.” She now works on pricing the downstairs stock. Because she loves her job, she has no plans for retirement. “The Northern has become part of my life. I look forward to the 100th anniversary celebration in 2019.”

A customer parking lot was paved in 1957. It was the first paved lot in Prince George.

Recognizing the Northern’s Longest-Serving Employees courtesy of Valerie Giles


Mike Springstead – He’s worked for The Northern since 1980 beginning as a clerk on the hardware floor. He rose to Hardware Department Manager around 1985 and was promoted to the position of Buyer for the store in 1998. Mike has heard the stories about how the salesmen (once called “travellers”) used to come by the store with samples to get orders. During his time, he started using paper catalogues. That was the way manufacturers got the word out about their products, models and features. After that, information was obtained consulting microfiche readers. Eventually companies provided sales information on computer diskettes. Now information is instantly available on the internet and can be ordered online through websites or by e-mail. Through all the changes, one fact has remained constant at The Northern: superb customer service. Mike says “Our excellent staff always tries to provide friendly, helpful service. We get to know our customers and our customers know us.” That is one of the reasons he declares “The Northern has been and always will be a great place to work.”


The Northern’s days


are always Clare O

nly four people in 95 years have been the boss at The Northern, and Hilliard Clare has worked for them all. The winds of change never stopped blowing during his decades at the business, making Mr. Clare as much an asset in operational planning as he is in the accounting chair he has occupied since the days of dirt streets outside. There aren’t many business trends or entrepreneurial innovations he hasn’t overseen in his role of Secretary-Treasurer of The Northern. It all started back in the warm days of spring in 1945. Mr. Clare was 15 years old and like almost everyone in Prince George, his family did regular business with The Northern.

It all started back in the warm days of spring in 1945. Mr. Clare was 15 years old and like almost everyone in Prince George, his family did regular business with The Northern.

“One day Harold [Moffat, then the incoming second generation manager of the store] said to my dad,‘hey, what’s that young buck of yours doing?’ because he had a job that needed to be done. Cont’d on page 7


Cont’d from page 6 He put me to work repairing bicycles after I was done at school,” Mr. Clare remembers. “A job was a good thing to have back then, so I was happy to be here.” The feeling lasted. He was such a good fit with the Moffat clan that he was promoted to the business office in 1948 before he was even 20 years old. Eventually he became a shareholder. He is still the human mainframe that reconciles the numbers. He said he isn’t much interested in TV, “my golf game isn’t that good” so he prefers to keep in daily contact with the family he has made under The Northern’s roof. Since he is family to them, too, that position is his as long as he wants it. “I have worked with some great people over the years, and some are still very good friends of mine,” he said. “I’ve gone through four presidents of the company. Alex was more of a relaxed man, and Harold was an entirely different man. Harold had an opinion all his own and if you couldn’t somehow convince him otherwise, well that was it. Then Ted, he was different again. He was sociable and easy to get along with but he didn’t deviate from the principles of running a business.” At this point Mr. Clare pauses and a fatherly smile breaks across his face.“Now, Kelly, I’ve watched her grow up since she was in diapers. Kelly has her own personality, of course, and her own views on how things should be done, but she knows how to treat people and treat a business.” Somehow, through 95 years of hard work and innovation, a few simple values were passed down to Kelly, and it is no secret around the store that Mr. Clare is one of the main reasons. He has been a bridge through those times, and has a nurturing personality to convey those values. Just

Hilliard Clare


remembering out loud how things used to be can pass on lessons about integrating with community, responding to people’s needs as they change over time, and putting in effort. “We used to have to burn firewood in the furnaces. In early fall you’d have to starting piling it in. The whole back lot was just about full,” he said. “We used to have to supply oil to people, but it only came in bulk drums, 45-gallon barrels. We would have to pour it into individual containers and label them ourselves.We used to sell dynamite.That was really important for land clearing and construction. We had 400 sawmills in this area at one time and they all needed products and services that we provided.” Despite the vastly different economic profile of the region, Northern Hardware trimmed the sails each time the wind changed direction. Mr. Clare is the living example that the only thing that ever stays the same is change, so if you keep your focus on solid human values and respect the challenges the customers bring through the doors, you will thrive over time. Not every business, he said, is built for agility. When he was young, there were major lumber yards in downtown Prince George, but both are now gone or drastically different. McInnis Lighting, for example, is one of those. “I really think the era of the ‘big box’ store is going to come to an end someday,” he said.“I think they have grown too large for people to enjoy the shopping experience. People expect good service from a knowledgeable staff. That is missing at the big boxes.” They also lack decades of mentorship, experience and personality all under the same hat. The Northern has that irreplaceable quality in Hilliard Clare. Courtesy of Frank Peebles, Citizen staff

Since 1919... If you can’t find it anywhere else, come to the Northern



Unique Products Found at The Northern

Strolling through the aisles of The Northern is an interesting adventure. Products familiar to people who are now grandparents or even great-grandparents can still be found on the shelves. Here are some examples, with explanations for contemporary customers whose memories may not extend back quite that far: Oil cloth – This is tightly woven linen fabric which has been treated with a coating of linseed oil to make

it waterproof. It was used to cover many a kitchen table. Horse tack – The gear needed to ride a horse. Examples are saddles, stirrups, bits, reins and halters. Horseshoes – If you know your horse’s hoof size, you can pick up a set. They’re near the back counter on the main floor. Clock parts – All the pieces needed to build or repair a clock. There are very few clockmakers left and most old clocks get tossed aside when they no longer work. Many can be restored with the right parts. Oil lamps – Before electricity was available in homes, the only way to read at night was by the light of an oil lamp. Wash boards – These are primitive contraptions to modern eyes, but once were the way clothes got cleaned. They come in a range of sizes and, of course, still work! Today, these items are more likely to become wall decorations in a laundry room. Bag balm – Meant to keep a cow’s teats and udder from becoming chapped or chafed in the cold, this product is actually bought by many customers to use on human hands and feet! The emollients protect the skin around fingernails from cracking and keep skin smooth over the dry winter months. Egg incubators – Just in case you have a need to hatch a batch of chicks! Cabbage cutters – Lovers of sauerkraut and coleslaw know that this is an important tool if those are foods regularly made. Crocks – Once common in any kitchen, the old crocks ranged in size by gallon capacity. They’re used for fermenting (like in making batches of root beer) or for storing and foodstuff meant to be kept cool or in the dark. Huckleberry pickers – The labour of picking one tiny berry at a time would make it almost impossible to harvest enough for a pie or batch of jam. These contraptions are designed as a rake-like collector which takes away the drudgery. Anthracite coal – Once a common furnace fuel in homes, anthracite is sold by the bag at The Northern. It is used in heating systems with boilers. And also find these useful items: • Horse linaments • De-lousing powders • Life jackets Of course, there are many more. Part of the fun is to come across them yourself. Be sure to ask a staff member what those unusual things are and what they do. It can turn a shopping trip into a learning experience. Courtesy of Valerie Giles

Champ rides still only


Northern Hardware S

An existing company, the Northern Mercantile and Lumber Co. was purchased by A.B. Moffat and Frank Whitmore in January 1919. The business partners took out an ad in the March 19th, 1919 edition of the Prince George Citizen entitled “To the Buying Public.” It read:

loggers and farmers of t Northern became region farm implements. By 1928, the business demand for furniture. became The Northern H Ltd. The second location w Third Avenu centre of to a building a of Third Av e th d se ha rc we have pu at th ce un no an After renov to sh d We wi Northern Lumber an e th of s es the store m sin bu re e ll lin hardwa is city. We carry a fu th Of d. in the fall Lt . Co ile s’, nt er Merca bile Accessories, Build to mo to wide eco Au , es ng Ra , es of Stov . and beg etc s, lie pp Su ’ rs settled in cto Trappers’, and Prospe tronage. pa ur yo ng iti on the op lic so of take this opportunity Manageme half and th Yours in anticipation, Co. to its cus re The Northern Hardwa Northern system tr A.B. Moffat produce F.W. Whitmore supplies It was during years that A.B. Moffat’s o The Northern Hardware ‘s first location was the working for the store fu building which had been owned by the Northern Harold Moffat started w Mercantile and Lumber Co. on George Street. At child of twelve in 1927. H the beginning, the business concentrated on business full-time in 1933 hardware, furniture and appliances. Within a year, his eighties. business had grown so much that a warehouse The third location was space was required. They had contractor A.P. Quebec Street). Large a Anderson build a 20 foot by 70 foot building on Citizen announced the Third Avenue East. October 30, 1937. There The core customers were the prospectors,


Customers and community connect at The Northern

When people shop at The Northern, they come for the experience as well as the service and reliable products. It is almost guaranteed that one of the most interesting conversations anyone can have in a day will take place there! It is one of the places in downtown Prince George where people can experience a real sense of community.

Store’s Four Locations

the region. In 1921, The nal agent for John Deere

responded to a growing That year, the business Hardware & Furniture Co.

was at 345 George Street at ue – then considered the own. The company leased at the north-west corner venue and George Street. vations were completed, moved in to that location l of 1934. A continentonomic depression had and that had an impact peration of the business. ent salaries were cut in he store extended credit stomers. As needed, The operated on a barter rading goods like farm or firewood for the their customers needed. g the early Depression oldest son, Harold, began ull time at that location. working in the store as a He began working for the 3 and continued well into

s at 1303 Third Avenue (at ads in the Prince George e official opening held e was a main floor with


long display tables for hardware and building supplies. It was there where customers could also find large appliances, bicycles and sporting goods. Smaller electrical appliances and radios were displayed on the mezzanine level. The building had a full basement underneath for storage. At that location, Norm Radley was store manager and Harold Moffat and Frank Milburn served as the sales staff. It was common during the 1930s that The Northern Hardware stayed open late on Saturday nights until the last customer left. This was to accommodate those who had come from out of town. The move to the present location at 1386 Third Avenue (at Brunswick) came in the spring of 1940 on May 9th. The Northern occupied only part of the building at the start. The upstairs was rented apartments and the main floor level also had a post office and a customs office. Renovations were completed within five years to put the furniture department upstairs and to expand the appliances and giftware into the space which had formerly been used by the other offices. Plate glass windows installed in the walls facing Third Avenue and Brunswick opened up the store and provided attractive display space. A large addition to the premises of 40 feet by 110 feet was added by J.N. Dezell and Son contractors was planned in 1947. After it was completed, there was space to accommodate all the stock from the leased premises down the street. Altogether, it took a week to move the goods up the street. Consolidation of the two locations was completed in the last week of July 1948. Courtesy of Valerie Giles

Many customers are greeted by name and they, in turn, know the names of staff at the store. It would be unusual, for example, for a customer to come in looking for something and be pointed in the general direction. Sales staff respond by taking the customer right to the item and putting it in his or her hands. If you need something fixed or have a repair you’re working on in your home, the right tool, part or piece of hardware will be sourced on the spot. With that you’ll get precise instructions on how to use the tool or make that repair. It’s like having a friendly neighbour who knows how to do everything! That kind of treatment does not go unnoticed! Customers regularly return to report how a project went and to express appreciation for the advice. Some come in with treats for the staff to say thank you. Two examples are Ruth Flynn, who often brings in hot cinnamon buns, and Bea Dezell who brought countless candies and baked goods in over the years. Last February, staff and customers got to experience an outpouring of caring and togetherness. For years, Dennis Busby has planned and set up the window displays at the store. He had a good sense of how to do that, and Ted Moffat had especially asked him to continue doing that even after Dennis moved to the

Appliance Centre. After Ted died on Februar y 26, 2013 local businessman Brian Brownridge suggested to Dennis that he make a memorial display for the store’s windows. Photographs and historic items associated with the life of The Northern got assembled and arranged. Floral tributes began to arrive and were added, making it appear as if the store had branched out into floristry! Then, something remarkable happened.

People passing by stopped to look at the display. They would be joined by others, and that continued for days. Groups of people who didn’t even know each other stood at the windows having conversations about Ted and sharing their memories. That was a fitting tribute to Ted Moffat’s memory. It was also a wonderful source of comfort to his family, to the staff and to the large community who knew him. Courtesy of Valerie Giles




a family business


our generations of the Moffat family have run The Northern. That, in itself, is a remarkable phenomenon. Very few family businesses can claim that. The statistics are stacked against that possibility. In North America, extensive research has been conducted on succession in family businesses. Researchers Beckhard and Dyer published their results in the mid1980s. They found that only 30% of family firms survive the transition to the second generation and only ten percent make it to the third generation. The Moffats had the magic! The reason that the business ever came about was the result of government cutbacks. The founder, Alexander Bohannon Moffat, was personally affected by the outcome of the 1916 provincial election. His job as a timekeeper for the Department of

There will always be the need to maintain in-person customer contact and to deliver that famous Northern Hardware service!

Public Works was eliminated by the new government. After that, he obtained a preemption on a quarter section of land at Fraser Lake and used that as collateral to borrow $500.00. Cont’d on page 11

Cont’d from page 10 That money represented the cash he needed to establish his business venture with partner Frank Whitmore. They purchased the Northern Mercantile and Lumber Co. in January of 1919. The business grew steadily and managed to expand even during the Depression of the 1930s. In 1933, the partners opened a store in Quesnel and Frank Whitmore went to manage that location. He continued working there for 27 years and then decided he wanted to move to California. The Quesnel store was sold and on April 8th, 1946 A.B. Moffat paid out Frank Whitmore as his partner and became the sole owner. At that time, he had his son, Harold Moffat, made a shareholder. Later that year, on October 1, 1946, ownership of the store was shared among A.B. Moffat, Harold Moffat and the company’s secretary-treasurer, Thompson Ogg. Ownership was further shared in 1949 when the Moffat sons (Donn, Earl, Gilbert (Corky), John and Keith) were all brought into the business. A few months later, longtime employee, Hilliard Clare, also became a shareholder and business partner. In 1951, A.B. Moffat brought his daughters into the business. Betty, Alice and Joyce were made equal partners. A.B. Moffat decided to retire four years later in 1955. That decision put his oldest


son, Harold, in position as C.E.O. of the company. Within five years Harold’s son, Ted, began working full time in the store’s office in 1960. For the decade of the 1970s, Harold also served as the Mayor of Prince George. The job was not then a full-time position, so he spent mornings at the store and afternoons at city hall. Harold’s own decision to retire came in the early 1990s. He made his son, Ted, President on February 1, 1993. At that time, Ted and his two cousins (Blair Moffat and Ian Moffat) bought out the five brothers of the previous generation (Keith, Donn, the estate of Earl, John and Gilbert (Corky). They also purchased the shares of the sisters (Joyce, Betty and Alice). That meant Ted Moffat, Blair Moffat and Ian Moffat were the remaining partners. At the same time, the Moffat Family Trust was established for all of Harold’s grandchildren as the fourth owner. Those changes were dramatic. With the retirement of the previous generation, their collective expertise went with them. It became necessary to choose a computerized system to manage pointof-sale transactions and track inventory. The system developed and marketed by ProfitMaster was installed and linked to the store, the warehouse and appliance centre and the AMCO wholesale outlet. Ted Moffat became ill in 2012 but was


optimistic about his treatment and, of well-managed business and has the benefit course, hoped he could recover. He hadn’t of an outstanding and exceptionally loyal planned on leaving. But, as his health went staff working with her. Already, she has plans into decline, he had to face the fact that for the future. Those include embracing the someone else would need to carry on. There technology available to modern retailers – was uncertainty until it became known that particularly engaging with social media and his daughter, Kelly Green, was learning what developing inventory for online shopping. she would need to know in taking over. The demand for that convenience keeps Having grown up with the business, she growing exponentially. Despite that, there was better prepared than anyone else ever will always be the need to maintain incould be. But, having to ask the questions person customer contact and to deliver that which needed to famous Northern Hardware service! Courtesy of Valerie Giles be asked must have been painful and difficult. The unspoken finish to every question she needed to ask her father was “when you aren’t here.” Kelly Green became President and C.E.O. in the month before her father died. She has operated the business Ted Moffat for a year and is proud to be part of the fourth generation of the family to carry on. She inherited a




customer connection is always right


orthern Hardware has had such close connections to Ruth Flynn over the years that it could be a branch on her family tree. The interactive roots go back to before the foundations of Prince George itself. “I married Don Flynn in 1954. Both of us were born in Prince George. I was a Hansen,” said Ruth. “Don was the son of Walter Flynn who came to Prince George from Quebec in about 1910. My father was Oli Hansen who came to Prince George from Norway in 1911.The Flynns and the Hansens were quite the settler families for this area.” Another pioneering family was the Moffats, one of the key families in the Central Fort George neighbourhood, while the Flynns were in the South Fort George part of town. They were separate communities at that time, and the Hansens were in the village Hansard east of the Nechako/Fraser confluence.

“In all our businesses, there was always a connection to Northern Hardware, and all our relatives too,” Ruth said. “The service was just excellent. It’s just the most wonderful store you can imagine. “ The railway was about to be opened, and the logging industry was already well underway, with trapping, mining and agriculture also involved in the local economy. It was a place in desperate need of an all-purpose hardware and dry goods store. Cont’d on page 13


Ruth Flynn Cont’d from page 12 Alex Moffat and partner Frank Whitmore bought a lumber outfit and quickly focused on the hardware aspect instead of competing directly with the other lumberyards already in the vicinity of modern-day downtown Prince George. The Hansens and the Flynns were some of the first regular customers. “We had a charge account there probably 95 years ago. Walter Flynn was dealing with them in his construction business right from the day they first opened their doors. My dad was a trapper and a guide so he was always in there too.” Hilliard Clare, 85, is the oldest employee at The Northern, and perhaps the longest serving employee at any store in Prince George. He remembers families like the Hansens from the Upper Fraser communities like Penny and McGregor and Sinclair Mills, and they were subject to a special kind of customer service that made The Northern intrinsic to their daily lives. “We used to act as the bank,” Mr. Clare explained. “People from the east end would work all week and come into town for the weekends, but the banks would all be closed. So

they would bring us their cheques, we would cash them, they would buy some things they needed but they would usually have a lot of money left over so they would ask us to hang onto it until Monday and deposit the rest for them. I remember opening more than one bank account in the name of someone from down the line, and it would be there for them when they got back to town.” With as many as 400 operational sawmills, plus all the logging and hauling and other industrial activities, the practice of credit accounts was common, and The Northern was active in floating small businesses from job to job. It was part of the service. “We did a lot on credit,”said Mr. Clare. “We got burned a few times. I remember once how Sovereign Contracting ordered a bunch of dynamite from us then went bankrupt, so we never did get paid out on that one. But we got to know who you couldn’t trust. Alex Moffat used to say, five per cent of the people would beat you no matter what you did, so you aimed what you did at the other 95 per cent.” Alex Moffat must have felt OK being beaten by the Flynn family, but in a different way. In the 1920s he and

Walter Flynn (and others) would frequently deal with business then deal out the cards. It was another aspect of business – making sure you spent social time in the community that supported you. A commercial concept that came naturally at The Northern and has never faltered is, make it personal. And so it was when Ruth and Don were first making their living together in the 1950s. The store was well known to them by then, and the relationship only grew. They started in the logging industry, then Don was part of the founding group for North Central Plywood (he was the CEO) and then Prince George Wood Preserving. The Northern supplied their home and their business ventures with a lot of their needs. “In all our businesses, there was always a connection to Northern Hardware, and all our relatives too,” Ruth said. “The service was just excellent. It’s just the most wonderful store you can imagine. You don’t just buy something and go home with it; they make sure it works in your home, they come look after it if there’s something wrong, they are there for you.” It felt at times like family relations, she said. Cont’d on page 14




Cont’d from page 13 “The people there were always so good to my children,” she remembered. Once, when she was scolding one of her children for grabbing a kiddie-car off the shelf and noisily zooming around the aisles, Harold Moffat himself – known for being a curmudgeon as mayor and as proprietor of The Northern – stopped her from her admonishments and encouraged the child to have even more fun in his store. Hilliard Clare might even have been there that day. He said the store has never wavered from one value above all: customer respect. “The main thing is providing service,” he said. “The customer coming through that door is the most important person in the world to you.They pay your wages, keep the lights on, keep your staff together.That is the attitude you have to keep.” That is exactly why furniture department veteran Lynne Boulier and a colleague struggled to set up a personal cargo cart for an elderly customer who bought the wheeled basket but didn’t know how to assemble it. The customer was so thankful, she came back an hour later with a box of cupcakes as a gift.The customer then tried to pay for the cart again but Boulier reminded her she had already done the transaction. Boulier described the bills she would have in her wallet that were given in change. Seeing

those exact bills, the customer reluctantly agreed to not pay again, but insisted that if the cash totals were out at the end of the day, call her up and she would pay the difference. Ruth Flynn was not that customer, but she could have been.That is exactly the personal touch she has come to know in many of her own moments throughout life. Whether it was her three kids taking their turns riding Champ the mechanical horse (Champ is still there, and still costs just a dime) or outfitting her household, Flynn long ago gave up the pretense that The Northern was just a store. “Good grief, I go in practically every day,” she said.“If it’s not something for my condo here in the city then it’s something I’ve got to get for the cabin at Bednesti Lake. These people are just great to me.” At different times in her life, Ruth has had different favourite departments within the store. Now that she is retired, her children moved on to other towns, and grandchildren and even a great-grandchild coming in and out of Prince George to visit her (she refuses to leave her beloved small town just because it has become a city), she still has a favourite section. Today she heads to the fishing aisle to get ready for all the adventures ahead this spring, and The Northern will be there as always to help her cast her next line. Courtesy of Frank Peebles, Citizen staff



Appliances of your dreams at The Northern’s Appliance Centre . . . There is a friendly, welcoming place in the building at Queensway and First Avenue. Come inside and meet manager Dennis Busby and his sales team. Robb Tedford and Julie Tucker really know appliances and guide customers through the amazing range of styles and features now available. Robb says that it can seem like information overload at the beginning, but the sales team makes sure customers have all the information they need to make the best decisions. One of the most rewarding parts of the job for Julie is seeing customers so satisfied. She enjoys showing the new, special features. If it has been a while since you’ve looked at appliances, you might be intrigued to find out that there are convection ovens which come with three racks making it possible to bake huge batches of cookies, for example, without having to rotate the trays. Some even have steam capability which

Brands carried:

allows foods to be cooked Gaggenau GE with maximum retention Thermador GE Café Premium Line of nutrients and flavour. Bosch Whirlpool Refrigerators are beautifully Bertazonni LG illuminated giving the ability Danby Whirlpool to see everything inside easily. Blue Star (in 190 brilliant colours) Some models come with shelves which can be electronically adjusted at the push of a button. Dishwashers can be whisper quiet. It’s like a gathering of family Wall ovens, salamanders, coffee Longstanding makers, microwave ovens and or old friends. warming drawers can be designed customers refer their friends into appliance towers for efficient there. Young couples come in on use of space. Freestanding ranges recommendations from parents. allow the option of placing them Everybody seems to know about the legendary service which anywhere in the kitchen. Check out the lines of designer includes delivering appliances kitchen hoods. A gleaming and making sure that they are hammered copper one is a levelled in place; taking away standout, but so are the ultra- the old appliances and packing modern stainless steel versions materials; and – because it is a which look like modern sculpture. Northern Hardware policy from The Ventahood line offers painting the beginning – there is never any the hood to match the stove charge for delivery. There have been a few changes colour. Zephyr and Silhouette are to the Appliance Centre operation. the other two brands carried.

The small engine department closed about eight years ago and in 2011 the appliance repair service ended. However, the parts department for appliances is still operating and customers can always access a needed replacement part or have it brought in.

In the space which repairs once occupied, look for an everchanging assortment of furniture from the store offered at clearance prices. There might be just the piece you’re looking for waiting for the right customer to come along!

Courtesy of Valerie Giles



Northern Hardware 95th Anniversary