The new year is beginning in Downtown Guelph, and for the first time in 85 years, it starts anew without one of its most cherished retailers. As a lifelong Guelph resident, I have not known a downtown without Budds department store- a fixture landmark since 1931. It has been the basis for many a trip downtown, for a countless variety of items. On the rare occasion they didn’t have what you were looking for, they’d do their absolute best to point you in the right direction; and surely those occasions were infrequent at best. You could always count on Budds.
In spite of trends towards suburbia, then big-box retailers- and most recently- online shopping; Budds held steadfast, and succeeded on the back of a loyal client base & strong local brand. Ultimately, this closure just indicates a changing of the times. If any department store was going to succeed in the face of trying economic conditions, it was Budds, although the latest battle against modern conveniences has taken its toll on many.
In one final, gracious exit from Downtown Guelph, Budds has donated much of their remaining product & fixtures in the stores to local charities. It will serve as a gentle reminder of the revered retailer we were fortunate to have in Guelph for so many years. And with Budds’ departure, a silver lining: A new vacancy has opened up in one of the most revitalized downtowns of late, and it presents a brand new opportunity for the next great business to build their legacy in the Royal City.
The end of an era as Budds department store makes its final sale
Guelph Mercury, Jan 02 2016
By Tony Saxon
GUELPH — Longtime customers left Budds department store Saturday with tears in their eyes and scratched up wooden coat hangers in their hands.
The tears were for the staff and store, which after almost 85 years in downtown Guelph closed its doors for good Saturday afternoon. The coat hangers were something to remember them by.
Between hugs from loyal customers, manager Ann Boyle-Croft stood to one side of the store that sat almost totally barren and let out a long sigh.
“It’s a sad day. It’s hard to see the store like this,” she said wistfully.
“We were all kind of dreading today. But on the other hand it’s ‘let’s get this over with,’ because it’s been very tough. We’re ready, in a sense, to call it a day.”
The Budd family announced in mid-October that the store, along with the flagship location in Kitchener and another in Simcoe, would be closing in January. The other two stores close later this month.
“We’ve had people coming in all week sharing stories and to say goodbye,” Boyle-Croft said. “People are going to miss Budds for sure.”
The Budd family opened the Kitchener store in 1926. Five years later they opened the Guelph location.
Long before malls and big box stores, Budds served generations of Guelph families, selling a wide range of items with great service and reasonable prices.
Valerie Vespasiano has worked on and off at Budds for 40 years.
“You became friends with customers,” Vespasiano said. “It was a family store. That’s the way it’s always been all these years.”
Valerie Fennell has been coming to Budds for 30 years. In recent years her extended family would travel from Oakville and Ajax to shop there.
“The people here were all so helpful. Personal service,” Fennell said. “I’m really going to miss the people.”
Boyle-Croft said Budds was the kind of store that didn’t just serve customers, they created relationships with them.
“It wasn’t just people coming in to shop. We made connections with a lot of people. It’s one of the reasons came here,” she said.
Seniors dropping by just for a chat was a regular occurrence.
“Everybody is asking us what’s going in here and we don’t know,” Boyle-Croft said.
Only one of the Budds staff looking for work has found it. Everyone else is still searching, she said.
“The Budds staff are well-trained people. You can’t get better than the Budds people,” Boyle-Croft said.
In a final act of graciousness to the community, the Budds owners donated much of its remaining product and fixtures to local charities.
One of those was Dunara Homes For Recovery, where executive director Yvonne Bowes said Budds has been helping out for years with donations, special pricing and advanced notice on sales.
“They were a great and loyal supporter. Their kindness and blessings over the years are going to be well missed,” Bowes said. “There’s going to be a huge void.”