Half a century at Canadian Tire

Daniel MacEachern
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Jim Marshall has spent his entire career with one company in Newfoundland

Jim Marshall started working with Canadian Tire sweeping floors and putting together bicycles. That was 50 years ago. Today, he owns the Canadian Tire franchise on Elizabeth Avenue - having spent his entire career with the company. — Photo by Daniel MacEachern/The Telegram


If the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary had gotten back to him sooner, Jim Marshall might be marking several decades as a police officer.

As it stands Marshall, 67, celebrates 50 years this month of working for Canadian Tire in Newfoundland.

"I had applied for the RNC out of school. Of course there was a waiting list there," said Marshall - the owner of the Elizabeth Avenue location - so he started his retail career in the meantime.

By the time the RNC came calling - two years later - he'd discovered a passion and an aptitude for selling hardware, and has worked for the same company on the island ever since.

"I was really enjoying what I was doing and I saw a lot of opportunity there," he said.

One of 10 children in his family, Marshall got a job because there wasn't much money for he and his siblings to go to university. He met the owner of his first Canadian Tire at a church camp, so when he finished high school, he went to work.

"I have not spent one day unemployed in my life. I don't know if that's a big thing or not. To me, it doesn't mean a whole lot, but everyone says they can't believe it," he said.

Marshall has outlasted entire Canadian Tire outlets, including some he helped open.

He started working at a Canadian Tire outlet at the corner of Elizabeth Avenue and Portugal Cove Road in June 1963, sweeping floors and putting together bicycles. From there he moved to a Kenmount Road location (where XSCargo is now). He applied for and received his own franchise in Port aux Basques and then moved to Gander, where he spent the next 11 years of his career.

"I was sort of settling in to spend my career there, when the phone rang and the opportunity presented itself to come home. St. John's is my home," he said. "I took that sight-unseen."

He's been in St. John's for the past two decades.

"I knew early on that I really enjoyed the interaction with people. I really enjoy people. I really enjoy retailing," he said, adding that Canadian Tire allows its operators much more independence - something he values - than a lot of other franchise operations.

"We were leading edge in retail in Canada back then. The excitement of the sales and all those things - back then, we dominated. We dominated back to school, we dominated Christmas. There'd be lineups outside. We dominated."

That was until Wal-Mart arrived in Canada in 1994, he said, which shook up the Canadian retailing industry - but ultimately made it stronger and forced Canadian operations to adapt.

"A lot of Canadian Tire retailers went by the wayside, but we managed to adapt and stay at the forefront," he said.

A half-century in a successful career yields a lot of highlights, including meeting hockey hero and Leafs goalie Johnny Bower, but for Marshall one accomplishment stands out above all others - receiving the award of excellence, a national award given by Canadian Tire for retailing excellence and community involvement, which he won in 2002.

He says he's getting close to retirement, but doesn't know just yet when he's going to hang it up. He enjoys travelling with his wife, Carolyn, golfing, fishing and spending time with his five grandchildren from two sons: Dave, a commercial bank manager in St. John's, and Peter, who has followed in his father's footsteps and manages a Canadian Tire location in Alberta.

"I don't know when I'm going to retire, and there's a lot of people interested in knowing that - staff and all," he said.

"I really don't know. I'm still enjoying it. I know there's a new, replacement facility on the horizon for us ... that new facility could open fall 2014, spring 2015. Will I take and operate that store? Maybe. But it's too far away. You have to look at the financials to understand what it is you're getting into, and I'll make that decision at that point of time. The staff here will just move on up then to that facility, with me or with the new guy, whoever it happens to be."

When Marshall does retire, though, he'll leave with no regrets.

"I would not want to have changed anything in my whole career, but work for this company. It's been amazing," he said.

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Canadian Tire, Wal-Mart

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Elizabeth Avenue, St. John's Canada Portugal Cove Road Kenmount Road Port aux Basques Gander Alberta

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Recent comments

  • George Keats
    June 15, 2013 - 22:00

    Jim, Congratulations on half a century at the Tire. I remember well making that phone call twenty years ago as well as how excited you were. Though your hair seems to have "lightened" a bit since you took the St. John's store, you still look like you have another fifty years in you. All the best for the future. George

  • Malcolm Jenkins
    June 15, 2013 - 14:43

    Congratulations Jim and Carolyn! We started in Dealer Training on the same day in 1989 ,and I have always been so impressed by your success,(given that I can't understand a word you say). Cheers! MJ

  • Archie Christie
    June 15, 2013 - 12:17

    Mimi and I send our very best to you and Carolyn on two lives well spent with honor, integrity, and honesty. The first time we met you were the store manager and I was the field rep who was very impressed by you. Over the years I've followed your career and we've remained the best of friends. Retire when you think it's appropriate Jim. You'll enjoy it just as you've enjoyed your professional life I'm proud to have been your friend and associate. God bless you both. Archie Christie.

  • Jim Borland
    June 12, 2013 - 20:33

    Congratulations Jim, it was great serving with you on all those Automotive projects over the years.

    June 12, 2013 - 19:25

    Congratulations Jim on your 50th anniversary with Canadian Tire. It was my honour to have shared many of those years with you. Best wishes to Carolyn and you!

  • David Nicholson
    June 12, 2013 - 16:04

    Congratulations James: There is life after. All the best in your decision making and congratulations on 50 with the "Tire" All the best from 'sunny' Nova Scotia. David Nicholson

  • Gina Dalkin-Davis
    June 12, 2013 - 15:52

    Hi Jim, Congratulations to you and to Carolyn. Wonderful to have met and known you both while I was involved with CTDA. What a blast we had organizing the Halifax Convention! Your positive, encouraging attitude always make those around you aim and achieve a higher standard. Best wishes on whatever you do.

  • Ed LeDrew
    June 11, 2013 - 14:06

    Congratulation on attaining 50 Years in retail. Knowing your work ethic this is a hard act to follow,enjoy whatever time you want to have doing the job you love.

  • Paul H.
    June 11, 2013 - 07:45

    I had the pleasure of working for Mr. Marshall for almost 10 years and I say Mr. because he is deserving of that respect. He is a true gentleman with a demeanour and attitude that is a rarity theses days. Though he has become very successful in business, I always felt he never forgot where he came from. Mr. Marshall, congratulations on your 50 years with CT and I wish you good health and happiness and all the best in the future, no matter what that is.

  • R.Squires
    June 10, 2013 - 22:38

    Congratulations Mr. Marshall ! One of my First jobs was working with you and your Team, I enjoyed my time there, and it taught me a lot for my current career. Greatly appreciated. All the best!

  • Your Boss
    June 10, 2013 - 11:59

    Get back to work Bishop! I don't pay you to play on your computer you slacker.

  • Robert
    June 10, 2013 - 11:26

    New store? Say it aint so. The Elizabeth Avenue store is the perfect size. Well organized, tidy and customer friendly. By far the best CT store around. Go to the big box outlet CT's and you lose all that and so much more.

    • Steve
      June 10, 2013 - 13:16

      I will be severely pissed if they close that store on Elizabeth. First Dominion in Churchill Square and now this? They're just trying to force people to drive to the "power centres" for everything instead of getting it in their own neighbourhood, and if Canadian Tire is anything like Dominion, they will of course require that anyone occupying their building is not in the same type of business, thus ensuring that we will permanently lose our hardware (and so much more) store.

    • Ryan
      June 10, 2013 - 23:14

      Sad to say, but yeah the Canadian tire on Elizabeth is slated to close, with a new Canadian tire opening up on white rosé drive/stravanger drive

  • J. Bishop
    June 10, 2013 - 11:12

    Congtatulations Jim....lucky you have that great woman beside you! Work ethic like yours is unfortunately rare.

  • Herb and Daphne Choquette
    June 10, 2013 - 09:39

    Jim, we are both so proud of you. You retire when you feel like retiring. Lots of love D&H