After 100 years, Northern Hardware to close its doors

Northern Hardware, the century-old cornerstone of downtown Prince George, will be going out of business early in the new year.

Kelly Green, the store's president, chose to emphasize the positive in breaking the news Wednesday.

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"Everything has a life span and we made it to 100 and that's a good ending," she said.

The Northern will be holding a customer appreciation day on Sat., Dec. 7. Liquidation will begin in January and the doors will close sometime in February.

Green attributed the decision to a range of factors "compounding all at once." The growth of big box stores and online shopping to a struggling regional economy to a reluctance for many to shop downtown were on the list.

"Just with Prince George changing and retail changing, it's been hard to adapt," Green said.

Moves have included getting out of appliances and putting that building, at First and Queensway, up for sale about a year-and-a-half ago. But the change in consumer habits proved overwhelming.

"I overheard someone say the other day, 'I wonder where I can get Kenmore vacuum cleaner bags,' and the first thing that someone said was 'Amazon,'" Green said. "Online is just getting stronger and stronger and it will be interesting to see where retail is in about 10 years, if brick and mortar will even exist."

The Northern's more-than 30 employees, some of whom have worked at the store for more than 40 years, were given the news about two weeks ago.

"For some, it was a big surprise and for others who have been with us for a lot of years, it wasn't a shock because they've seen the changes," Green said. "Downtown used to be the heart of the city and hustling and bustling and busy, and it's really changed."

It's been a family-run business since day one. Alex Moffat and partner Frank Whitmore founded the company after buying out the Northern Lumber Company in 1919. It was passed down to Harold Moffat, a former city mayor, and then to Ted Moffat. Green took over in 2013 after her father passed away. She had been working in the store since she was 16 years old.

"Our kind of store, I always felt it was more about customer appreciation more than profit," Green said. "Like Lowe's announcing today that they're leaving because it's a non-profiting store - well that was never what we were about.

"We were about providing a place for employees to work, giving to the community, the community giving back, it was never about profit. If that's what it was, we would've been gone a long time ago."

Business has been most brisk Monday to Friday when people working downtown patronize the store. The neighbouring Farmers' Market also helped draw people to the Northern on Saturdays during the summer.

The Northern celebrated 100 years of business in March.

"It is a loss, especially for downtown Prince George, but we are choosing to focus on the good, like the 100 years," Green said. "It's a great way to end."

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