Sears marks 40 years of retail history in Chilliwack

Employees celebrated and noted for their length of service to well-established retail outlet

Ron Boire

Ron Boire

Chilliwack Sears celebrated its milestone 40th birthday on Wednesday morning, giving thanks to their customers and employees for its success.

The event included a visit from Ron Boire, Sears Canada’s president and CEO, and many local past general managers and employees.

Boire met with some longtime employees, including Ruth Riediger, who started working for Sears 45 years ago.

“I came over here to help to setup,” she said. “I was at the catalogue store on Wellington.”

When she was asked to stay on at the new “Cottonwood Corners Mall” location, she took the opportunity — and learned how to sell menswear and cameras. It was quite a different job from her role in the catalogue shop, where she had worked in the credit department. Other than one year in Winnipeg, where she also worked at Sears, Riediger has kept clocking in at the Sears store all this time.

She had some advice for those hoping to secure a job with the department store in the future.

“You need to be ambitious,” she said. “You can’t be scared to try something different.”

While she had become a familiar face at the store, she is now working in inventories, “behind the scenes.”

Riediger is one of more than a dozen people who have worked at the location for more than 20 years. Surely, the store has a long history in Chilliwack.

Chilliwack Progress archives report that when the department store first opened, in October of 1975, a crowd of about 500 people “swarmed into the store as soon as ‘Welcome to Simpsons-Sears’ was declared over the public address system.”

The Chilliwack Junior Secondary school band and choir provided entertainment, and Mayor W.G.R. Simpson cut the ribbon.

Back then, the mall was known as Cottonwood Corner, and teens could be found hanging out at the Willie Woozle Malt Bar. Then, store manager Robert Hoogendoorn told a reporter that close to 500 employment applications had been received.

One of those applicants may have been Frank Love, who was on hand to celebrate the store’s 40th on Wednesday.

He was 19, but the job was by far his first, he said. Love was in charge of bringing in audio equipment on Wednesday, and managed to find an old fashioned microphone and speakers as a tip of the hat to the store’s longevity.

Boire said part of Sears’ success is that they focus on local connections, hire “real human beings” and offer solid quality products for mid-range prices. One of the reasons Sears remains strong while other department have failed is their dedication to the community, and their strategy of marketing to middle-income shoppers, he added.

Wednesday’s event also included a cheque donation to the Chilliwack YMCA in the amount of $10,000.

Sears Chilliwack is one of the most established stores in the country, beginning in 1953. The average Sears location is 25 years old.

This Saturday, Sears will be celebrating with public, with treats, prizes and live musical entertainment.