GANDER, NL — It’s been a journey for Alice and Lloyd Hart that will soon come to an end.
Married couple Lloyd and Alice returned to Newfoundland in 1973 to seek opportunities here. The reason was simple — Lloyd was not fond of the warmer temperatures and humidity in Ontario.
“So, after a little while longer, Lloyd said, ‘this is it, I am going home,’ and I said, ‘well, I guess I am going too,’” Alice said.
Two weeks after arriving in Gander, Lloyd started a job as a mechanic with Irving on Airport Boulevard.
When the second owner was about to retire, Lloyd saw the opportunity to take over the business, launching a 31-year, husband-wife partnership with Irving and Canadian Tire Gas+.
The retail and gas business remained after Canadian Tire Gas+ took over from Irving, but losing the mechanical side of the business affected Lloyd for a long time.
“It was hard, and it took a lot of getting used to,” he said.
Alice shook her head and grimaced, suggesting both shared the pain and burden of losing that aspect of their business.
It did not help that the shuttered garage and car wash were still attached to the building, as they would remind Lloyd of days gone by.
“I was a year not knowing, not feeling right, that something was missing in my day-to-day work,” he said
“I was not doing the work I used to. I was here wandering around, trying to find things to do and on top of that, we had learning to do,” Lloyd said.
On a positive note, Lloyd recalled the last day he hung up his tools.
“It was on Oct. 21, 2003. I did my last job right here at this bay on a red Nissan Sentra — I went out in style,” he laughed.
Using computers was a particular challenge for Alice when it came to managing the business.
“I started off with big ledger books,” Alice said, “and Irving came with the computers and I said, ‘I can’t stay here long — I got not training.’”
After getting used to the new system, “Canadian Tire came with a new computer system and I had to learn it all over again,” she laughed.
Running the business had an impact on the Harts’ lifestyle choices and priorities –operation of the business usually came first.
“The hours were long. We are still doing it now, even though it is our last few days here. There are things to be done,” Lloyd said.
He adds, “there is a high level of commitment. I am not very modest when I say that, but I am being very truthful.”
Canadian Tire recognized the Harts’ commitment with a Customer Excellence award, and staff recognized they had good bosses through their years of service.
According to Steve Anstey, one of their first employees, “Lloyd Hart was the best boss I’ve ever had. Ever. And I’ve had many.
“He is a nice man, fair, and he taught me a lot of things. He is a patient man. And Alice is a nice lady too — she could be hard,” Anstey chuckles, “and she didn’t mind telling you what to do or when you were doing it wrong.”
The next chapter of retirement is not something the Harts look forward to, but they recognize the need for change.
“We both have some health issues, and with these issues, you think about maybe how to make more of your life because one of these days…,” said Lloyd.
“It is going to be hard for sure. We like to go to work together.”
Alice said she and Lloyd thank the customers who supported their business over the years.
“And in the end, you won’t survive in any business without customers and treating them right,” Lloyd added.