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Gow’s Home Hardware's rich history continues at new location in Bridgewater

Gow's Home Hardware and Furniture co-owners Amanda Fancy (left) and Julie Gow, along with their employees, prepare to greet the first customers at their new 58,000 sq. ft. store in Bridgewater on April 29. The 75 employees have worked for Gow's for a combined 680 years.
Gow's Home Hardware and Furniture co-owners Amanda Fancy (left) and Julie Gow, along with their employees, prepare to greet the first customers at their new 58,000 sq. ft. store in Bridgewater on April 29. The 75 employees have worked for Gow's for a combined 680 years. - Peter Simpson

Armchair historians take heed – at least three significant events occurred 171 years ago, in 1848.

One, the 1848 Revolution in France ended the reign of King Louis-Philippe, leading to the creation of the French Second Republic, and provided the inspiration for other European revolutions.

Two, responsible government – a government responsible to the people, not to the monarch or his or her representatives – was first achieved in Nova Scotia in January 1848.

Three, Robert Dawson opened a humble hardware store, which eventually became Gow’s Home Hardware. It is considered to be the first hardware store in Canada.

Walter Gow purchased the store from Dawson in 1929, eventually passing it along to his son, Frank, who joined the Home Hardware team in 1964, making Gow’s the first Home Hardware chartered member in the Maritimes. Frank’s son, Peter, ran the company from 1989 until he retired in 2012.

Among this hardware testosterone was 16-year-old Amanda Fancy, a hire Peter Gow eventually groomed as an inventory control person. Fancy is now at the top of her game, having purchased the store on LaHave Street from Gow seven years ago, at age 32.

“When I started working with my dad, our store was 2,500-square feet and we had five employees. When I took over, we had 25 employees. Now, all these years later, Amanda has taken the reins of a 58,000 square foot store, which generates employment for 75 men and women. It’s a massive change,” Gow says.

“When I made my decision to retire, the opportunity was there for Amanda. She worked closely with me and did a great job. I just felt she was the right person to take over. This store on High Street, re-branded as Gow’s Home Hardware and Furniture, is a testament to that.”

‘I feel like a proud papa’

Gow's Home Hardware and Furniture co-owners Julie Gow and Amanda Fancy, flank Peter Gow at the opening of Gow's new store in Bridgewater on April 29. Peter Gow owned the popular store from 1989 to 2012. - Peter Simpson
Gow's Home Hardware and Furniture co-owners Julie Gow and Amanda Fancy, flank Peter Gow at the opening of Gow's new store in Bridgewater on April 29. Peter Gow owned the popular store from 1989 to 2012. - Peter Simpson

“The store is impressive. The furniture department, managed by cousin Julie Gow, is a wonderful addition to the store. When it comes to how the business has evolved, I feel like a proud papa,” he adds.

Gow says if his father and grandfather were there to witness the opening, they would approve.

 “They, like me, believed in progress, always reaching for the bigger and better. This is it,” he adds.

Fancy deflects credit for the success of this venture toward her loyal employees.

“I am so proud of our team and how hard everyone worked to make this happen on schedule. This is their store. It’s sad to say goodbye to LaHave St., but we are excited to be here,” Fancy says.

“The things that make us Gow’s, and not just some big box store, are our friendly people and our exceptional customer service. It has always been, and will continue to be, a team effort here.”

The 75 employees have been on the Gow’s payroll for combined 700-plus years. Four employees have at least 30 years of service – Kevin Dolliver, 37 years; Keith Baker, 34; Sharlen Mailman, 34; and Theresa Giles, 33.

Then there is Randy Eisnor, who started working at Gow’s when he was just 17. Now, 42 birthdays later, he’s still there, one of Fancy’s most trusted lieutenants.

 “I never imagined, back when I was a teenager, that I would still be here today. I can’t see myself celebrating 50 years here, but I intend to stay for a couple more years, for sure,” he says.

“Since I started, there have been many changes and improvements, including more technology, new products and higher customer expectations, so you have to keep up with the times.”

Under one roof

The last shoppers to go through the checkout at the old Gow's location, Johanne MacDonald and daughter Jordyn, were invited by store co-owner Amanda Fancy to be the first customers at the new location. The checkout clerk is Sharlen Mailman, who has been with Gow's for 34 years. - Peter Simpson
The last shoppers to go through the checkout at the old Gow's location, Johanne MacDonald and daughter Jordyn, were invited by store co-owner Amanda Fancy to be the first customers at the new location. The checkout clerk is Sharlen Mailman, who has been with Gow's for 34 years. - Peter Simpson

Co-owner Julie Gow, who has responsibility for the spacious furniture and appliance section of the store, has been with Gow’s Furniture for 24 years, starting in parts and service, and then working her way on to the retail floor. Since then, she has been involved in all aspects of the business.

“Being together under one roof is a fabulous move for both stores. Although the furniture section of the new store is slightly smaller than the 15,000-square-feet we had at the King Street store, the layout here is superior. We’re able to display more items, and the space is brighter, more appealing,” she says.

And having two women at the helm is something else to be proud of, she says.

“Two women leading the Gow’s hardware and furniture team is not something the Gow men would have envisioned back in the day, but they would be very proud of Amanda and me,” she said.

“Amanda and I think of ourselves not so much as leaders, but as coaches of an excellent team. I hope we continue to grow and that this store will help to establish this area as the hub of Bridgewater.”

Johanne MacDonald and her four-year-old daughter, Jordyn, the last customers at the LaHave St. store, were invited by Fancy to be the first customers at the new High St. location.

“Oh, my gosh, this store is beautiful. It’s so modern. The aisles are wide and the displays are laid out nicely. It’s one-stop shopping. My daughter even found some jewellery,” MacDonald says.

“I grew up in town and my dad is an avid Gow’s shopper. This is his go-to place, so it’s natural that I started shopping at Gow’s, when I moved back to Bridgewater and bought my first home.”

Fancy reflected fondly on how she marked her 2012 purchase of Gow’s with a grand re-opening.

“That was lots of fun, but we hope to crush those numbers, when we host our grand opening during the May long weekend. It will be the biggest event in Gow’s history, and everyone is invited.”

peter_simpson@hotmail.com

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