The celebration of D.A. Williamson and Sons hardware store’s 90th anniversary last weekend in Mindemoya is, in fact, the celebration of a business that has been operated over all of those decades by succeeding generations of the same family.
The generations of the Williamson family that currently runs the business (Barry and Blaine Williamson and their families) is part of a Manitoulin tradition that, in the way of things, is also a shrinking one in that businesses often get sold out of families and so the succession ends.
Turner’s store in Little Current fits this mould as do Purvis Fisheries at Burnt Island, Ward’s Store in Tehkummah and Watson’s Store in Sandfield. There are many farms, and farming is certainly a business, that remain in the same family for a century or more, but even in rural Manitoulin, this pattern is changing as, sooner or later, no one in a particular generation wants to stay on the farm.
Kudos then to the Williamson brothers and their daughters for not only maintaining this tradition, but constantly looking for ways to make their store a place that is more and more a destination in itself.
They have accomplished this with constant upgrades over the past 35 years or so and in so doing, have positioned the business (both the hardware and sporting goods sections) as places where people can find products they may not be able to locate anywhere else.
A member of the fourth generation of Williamsons at the store, Brittany Williamson, was in charge of the celebratory event last Saturday and in an interview, she noted that she wanted to do this for her late grandmother, Doris Williamson.
That was a fine tribute for a gracious lady who passed away only a few years ago but who was vitally involved in the family business until shortly before her illness and subsequent passing on.
There is a Doris Williamson anecdote, as observed by this writer on more than a few occasions (and who also counts himself as an admirer of her courage and abilities).
One of the late Mrs. Williamson’s many duties at the store was payroll and until not long before her death, she still paid employees in cash in those little brown pay envelopes that one could source at the bank. Deductions were noted by Mrs. Williamson, in longhand, on the front of the pay envelope in traditional fashion.
While this old tradition in modern times was remarkable in itself, what was even more remarkable—and something that many of us, as business people, should take note of and learn from—was the fact that as Mrs. Williamson delivered the pay envelopes to the store’s staff at the end of every pay period, she would thank each staff member for their work.
If the D.A. Williamson and Sons hardware and sporting goods business is successful, it’s because it deserves to be with influences like that.
The memory of Doris Williamson was appropriately honoured by her family on this special occasion and her astute but kind and polite approach to business is something we should all admire.