Arthur Grout, one of Chapleau's best known citizens, had only one employer in his lifetime which was Smith and Chapple Ltd.
In an article contained in the Richard Brownlee papers, loaned to me by Margaret Rose (Payette) and Bobby Fortin, Mr. Grout writes that D.T. Chapple asked his parents if he would like to learn the hardware business. His parents said "Yes"; he said "No" but he soon realized it was time for him to get a job.
On March 30, 1916, Mr. Grout started work at Smith and Chapple Ltd. "The miracle of it is that this is the only job I ever had. I say miracle because when I think of the way I did things in those early days it's a miracle that I wasn't fired immediately ..."
Sharing some of the history of the retail business in Chapleau, Mr. Grout noted that the store was the first to sell "electric washers" in Chapleau and "I really think I have done a washing in half the homes in Chapleau demonstrating how the old wooden tub washers worked."
|Reeve Bubs Zufelt, Art Grout as Rotary chefs|
After World War I ended in 1918, trappers and First Nations people were "plentifully supplied with money from the fur sales and it was nothing for a trapper to make from three to five thousand dollars from his winter's work and they way they bought canoes, tents, snowshoes, traps, etc., was a salesman's dream."
He wrote that radio "started as a novelty item about 1923 and it grew into something big".
On the side he had been "playing around with these contraptions" with Charles W. Collins "but the work grew so much that I had to consider going after it seriously or dropping it." (I assume they were working on making radios)
|Charles W Collins|
However, they decided to sell radios in the store and eventually carried most major brands.
As an aside, Mr. Collins became Chapleau's other major retailer, purchasing the Alex Langis share of Langis and Wolfe, and changing the name to Wolfe and Collins in 1928. According to Vince Crichton in 'Pioneering in Northern Ontario', it became Collins and Matters in 1934, and by 1940, had become Charles W. Collins Stores Ltd.
Despite being business competitors Mr. Grout and Mr. Collins served together to assist the community such as the board of Lady Minto Hospital and St. John's Anglican Church. They both were very active community supporters.
Mr. Grout also noted that working hours had improved by the 1930s. When he first started they came to work at seven a.m. and worked every other night until eight p.m. with eleven p.m. being closing time On Saturday. By the 1930s store hours were eight a.m. to 6:15 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on Saturdays. However, in the summer the store closed at noon on Wednesdays.
In 1930, Mr. Grout and D.O. Payette took over the store with Mr. Payette as president, and Mr. Grout as vice president.
The Great Depression started and it was not the best time to be taking over a business.
Mr. Grout outlined their situation. The general offices of the Canadian Pacific Railway were moved which was their "first blow" Then business steadily got worse as operators, section men and the B and B workers were reduced. Lumber offices moved and highway work was stopped and "it seemed like Job and his troubles had nothing on us."
But they survived. "They say that necessity is the mother of invention and it must be so for during those depressing days we cast about to try and find some means to help bolster up the business."
Coal was added and became a major product sold by the store. They became involved in the tourist business and took up contracting, doing home renovations, and as a result adding lumber and other products. They also started selling gasoline.
Eventually, the Smith and Chapple logo became "Everything for Everybody" and as I read Mr. Grout's article, It struck me that as boy growing up in Chapleau, it sure seemed they had "everything". In fact I worked in the men's wear, furniture, grocery and service station part-time while attending high school and university.
Mr. Grout added that he and Mr. Payette had tried to maintain the firm's hard won reputation of "fair dealing, good quality and good service." In 1987, Smith and Chapple Ltd. became Chapleau Village Shops. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org