Who remembers Zellers in Cornwall? I’m sure most of us do … Well the Zellers’ “experience,” is being reinvented in 25 Bay stores this spring, so I thought I would take a look back at Zellers here in Cornwall.
A made-in-Canada bargain store, the chain was founded in London, Ontario by Walter P. Zeller in 1931.
Zeller’s store Number 30 , opened at 150 Pitt Street on October 23rd, 1947. Supervisor Elizabeth Wright recorded the event for posterity in the “Zeller’s Journal.”
“A sense of humour; plans, outlines, schedules, organization, several giant size bottles of aspirin; TIME (at least 48 hours per day)” – these were but a few of the comments received from Store #30 executives in answer to the question, “What does it take to successfully open a new store?” The above, plus quantities of hard work were all mixed well together” when the store opened its doors to Cornwall.
Those who passed by the eye-catching windows and through the all glass doors saw a brightly lighted, ultra-modern store, well assorted lines of merchandise attractively displayed with precision-like neatness, and the 132 members of the selling staff, garbed in their best black or navy bibs and tuckers, ready to extend the utmost in good customer service.
Cash registers started to ring and business in Cornwall’s newest store hummed.
Around the hosiery squares, customers crowded three and four deep – Nylon Hose proved to be uppermost in milady’s mind. Department Head Eileen Murray… beamed as they called for more and more stock. Diamond socks sizzled – Mildred Smith lost track of her sales after the 86th and Verna Durant and Shirley Welsh are sure they could fold a pair of hose with their eyes closed.
In the Men’s Department, underwear sales soared, keeping Department head, Elsie Battershell busy on the register while Phyllis Robarge, Anna Carpenter and Corinne Malette refilled counter displays.
“My beautiful displays,” lamented Isobel Moore…as she surveyed her counter during an all-to-brief “breather.” With the help of Alice Castle, Gwen Hurst and Edna McCourt, the displays were very briefly straightened out.
Fractions of yards, bolts of material, measuring, registering sale – opening day in the Piece Goods Department for capable Bertha Hume, Grace Gallinger and Muriel Charlebois.
A recent Dutch immigrant, in the Infant’s Wear Department was turned over to Nell Bonner “our Dutch war bride,” who conversed with her in her native tongue. Result – another satisfied customer!”
Many hot cups of tea, cokes and cookies were served by our Matron Mrs. Gillie. “Oh, my feet – let me get these shoes off,” was the password to the Girl’s Room.
In the stockroom, Graham Powell, Ted Tait, Phyliss Lessard and Laurette Laplante hurriedly filled orders. The office was just as busy and when “Time for another pick-up” was heard, Ruth Johnson, Shirley Webster or Marjorie Campbell filled it.
When the store closed at six o’clock, Manager Marvell said, “Sure, we worked hard but we also had fun – wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
In 1969, Zeller’s much expanded flagship store opened in the Eastcourt Mall.
Under the ownership of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the chain grew to 350 stores. Competition from Walmart coupled with the Bay’s upscale market, led to the sale a number of the outlets to the ill-fated Target franchise. The Bay’s remaining 64 stores proved to be unprofitable leading to the closure of all but two Zellers in 2013, followed by the last two outlets in 2020.
We won’t be getting a Zellers in Cornwall, but if you want to relive the “Zellers Experience” this spring, you will have to travel to the St. Laurent or Rideau Centre in Ottawa. Enjoy!
The Seeker Newspaper is located at 327 Second Street E., Cornwall, ON K6H 1Y8 -- All rights reserved The Seeker does not accept responsibility for errors, misprints or inaccuracies published within. The opinions and statements of our columnists are not to be presumed as the statements and opinions of The Seeker, and should not substitute professional or medical advice.
ISSN 2562-1750 (Print) ISSN 2562-1769 (Online)