On Aug. 24, 1999, Eaton’s department store in downtown Sudbury announced its final sale. It was going out of business.
The store was part of a mighty chain that had been a part of Canadian families’ lives for more than a century.
It was where Canada shopped for shoes, clothes, jewelry, hockey skates, furniture and even food. The company, started by a conservative Scotch-Irish immigrant, was bankrupt.
After years of economic challenges, Eaton’s had racked up $300 million of debt and sought bankruptcy protection in 1997. The next year, the company lost $72 million, and in the first quarter of 1999, it lost $37.7 million.
There had not been a business genius in the family since his great-grandfather died, Fred Eaton, who served as Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom from 1991 to 1994, told the media at the time.
Uniquely Canadian, Eaton’s once had 200 stores from coast to coast in major cities and in smaller ones, such as Gander, Stratford, Midland and Mission.
Eaton’s distributed millions of copies of its mail-order catalogue and was nicknamed “the bible.”
“Everything from clothing to farm machinery could be ordered. In addition, homes could be purchased in the form of a small prefabricated house, and many of those original houses ordered through the mail still exist in Canada today…A typical home in the 1910s would cost $900 from the catalogue.” *
On a personal note, I worked at an Eaton’s store when I was in high school. I was told the customer is always right.
Eaton’s motto was “Goods Satisfactory or Money Refunded.” I remember shoppers returned clothes they had worn and even washed. No questions were asked. On