Family business reaches century mark

Brothers Barry and Blaine Williamson are marking the 100th anniversary, alongside their families, of the family-owned D.A. Williamson and Sons hardware store in Mindemoya.

Three generations of Williamsons have run ‘The Hardware Store’

MINDEMOYA – It was 100 years ago that David ‘Davy’ Williamson set up shop as a hardware merchant on King Street in Mindemoya. Family lore has it that Mr. Williamson, who did not have a middle name, thought it sounded better to have two initials and hence, the D.A. Williamson Store was named.

According to a history of the store written for its 90th anniversary, the D.A. Williamsons Store of 100 years ago sold wood heating stoves called ‘box stoves’ as well as other wood heating cook stoves, many washing machines and general hardware. Mr. Williamson also did eavestroughing and installed lightning rods on barns and houses in many parts of the Island. He even put soles on people’s shoes.

Following the Second World War, in 1948, a grocery section was added to the King Street store and Mr. Williamson was ably assisted by his son David Orion ‘Bus’ Williamson who had served overseas.

Bus Williamson married Doris Hutchinson of Sandfield in 1953 and the senior Williamson lived with the couple and their growing family for the remainder of his years until his passing in 1967, at age 87, active in the business until the end.

By this time, Williamson’s added to its lengthy list of wares, including appliances, and by the end of 1971, a 25 ft. by 50 ft. addition was added to the store. Bus Williamson passed away at that same time, leaving the store to his wife and two sons, Blaine and Barry, who still operate the bustling store to this day. Mom Doris still lent her active support until her passing in 2006.

The famed Up Top Sports Shop was built over the new hardware part in 1981, and in 1988, a 50 ft. x 70 ft. addition was built on the back of the main floor for yet more hardware and again on the second floor to extend the Up Top Sports Shop in 1989. 

For Blaine and Barry, the store is all they know. In fact, they lived there as children, too. Barry recalls the boys sneaking down to the grocery section of the store to secretly steal the toys contained within the cereal boxes. Blaine also fondly remembers helping Grandpa Davy work the store’s small forge for custom ironwork.

“We did some small engine repair and bike repair, too,” Blaine adds. “I got really sick of looking at bikes,” he laughs.

Blaine recalls that when they were children, bamboo fishing rods were the standard in fishing rod fashion—a far cry from the rows of high tech fishing gear now found upstairs. While grandpa always sold firearms and fishing tackle, they decided to really ramp things up in the sporting goods category in the 1980s.

“More and more people were spending leisure time here, and those people like to play,” he said of the decision.

While the brothers work in conjunction, it’s generally known that Barry can be found downstairs, in hardware, while Blaine is upstairs at Up Top Sports.

Neither Blaine nor Barry knew this would be their calling, but when their father passed away they immediately stepped up to help their mom run the store, and never left.

Barry said that while they have seen a great deal of change over their lives at D.A. Williamson and Sons, the pandemic has exacerbated that change. “COVID has changed everything; it makes it really hard to operate.”

At the start of the pandemic, the brothers were forced to lay off their staff (who are since back), but it was busy. “The phone was ringing off the hook,” Barry shares.

But the pair take everything in stride. “We grew up on it. You always feel that weight (of running a century-old business).”

The ‘old-timey’ look and feel of D.A. Williamson and Sons has almost become a Mindemoya attraction in and of itself and has even boasted visits from the Stanley Cup and Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

Doris Williamson’s philosophy, passed on to her by Davy and Bus, was to carry “everyday things that people need.” If people came in wanting an item that they did not have, they would try to get it for them, and that spirit continues to this day in the fourth generation of Williamsons. Blaine and Barry’s children Brittany, Jade, Wyatt, Nikki and Jenna told The Expositor they “feel blessed to have such an incredible legacy of hardworking individuals within our family, and that we have spent our lives looking up to our dads as they work incredibly hard to ensure our family business continues on and thrives. We are lucky to have them to show us what hard work looks like.” 

A Facebook event page has been set up in honour of the occasion and people are dropping by to share their special memories, like Cathy Hallett, who writes, “When my husband Willis and I were married, 44 years ago, it was tradition for Williamson’s to have a wedding card for the newlywed couple on display. The community would sign the card and give a donation toward a gift for the couple. We received a wonderful tea kettle from the store. The kindness of the community and Williamson’s Hardware will always be remembered by this young bride.”

To leave a special memory of the store or a congratulatory note, or view some memorabilia, please visit the ‘Williamson’s Hardware Turns 100 Years Old!’ Facebook event page.