THE ELMWOOD GROUP
In "At Home Across The Country", a book celebrating 50 years at Home Hardware published in 2014, the Leger family and the Elmwood Group are featured,
You can go and come home again. Alfred and Marie Leger proved that admirably when they moved back to their native New Brunswick in 1974 after 28 years in Ontario, and opened a Home Hardware store. They met in Toronto, married there in 1960 and began raising their two children but all the time Alfred had hankering to come back home. He sounded out his brother about opening a hardware store and one day, the call came: I've found a piece of property - are you interested? They were. Marie had retail experience (she had worked at Simpsons when they lived in Scarborough), so they made a good team. Four years later, business was good enough that they opened a second store in Richibucto. In 1980 the two brothers amicably split the business. Alfred and Marie kept the Moncton operation and moved from the original location, which they had rented, to the current one which they purchased. That was the era of 21% interest rates, not the best time to assume a mortgage. But property values were down as a result and Alfred's background as a carpenter meant he could oversee renovations and keep an eye on costs. Once the new store was up and running, sales doubled overnight.
By the mid 1980's, their son Alvin was very involved in the business which grew again. They added an additional 8,000 square feet bringing the retail space to 12,000 square feet. Another major achievement: Marie Leger was the first woman elected to the Board of Directors. She served from April 26, 1988 until April 22, 1991. Alfred and Marie decided to retire when her term was up in 1991. Alfred and Marie took another leap of faith in deciding to pass the business on to the next generation: Alfred cites a statistic from the time that indicated a 70% failure rate when a second generation came on board. Nevertheless, in their case, the decision was the right one and the business flourished. Moncton is the heart of the Maritimes, its transportation hub and, with its strong bilingual character, home to a very strong service sector. As a result, the city continues to grow and son Alvin and his wife Rachelle have taken full advantage of the strong economy. in 1997, when he had completed the buyout of the business, Alvin decided to expand into building supplies and converted his stores to HHBCs. He added another 14, 000 square feet to the existing retail space in the Elmwood store. From there on, all future Leger stores were HHBCs, including Alvin's second store in Dieppe, an are neighbouring Moncton, which he opened in 2001. In 2005, he opened a third HHBC in Magnetic Hill, an are of strong residential growth. He had so much space that in another typical Leger move, he decided to open a combination HHBC and Home Furniture store. While theirs wasn't the first of its kind in the Home Hardware family, they were certainly in the vanguard of this new format.
The first Home Hardware in Moncton, 1976
When I asked Alvin if he still had expansion dreams, his eyes lit up. He and Rachelle are indeed actively considering another store, with immediate plans for a new building for the Elmwood location. Alfred and Marie are so proud of everything accomplished by the new generation, maybe even a tiny bit envious. Alfred sometimes wishes he had got into the business earlier - he was 45 when he moved back to New Brunswick, whereas Alvin was 30 when he took the business over. But then, he thinks about life today - he and Marie are getting organized for the next Walter trip - to Malaysia - and they will be heading back shortly to their Florida home for the winter. When they're in town, they visit the store every day - not to work, they quickly point out, but to shop and visit and pick up their mail. Their store was the first Home Hardware to open a Canada Post Retail outlet. Another first in a long history of accomplishments. (pg 139)