In the almost four decades Don Sheppard was part of his family’s 50-year-old downtown business, a lot has changed in the place he calls home.
And that’s how the business has lasted.
Sheppard has retired after 39 years from what is now Haney Appliance and Sound. The business was founded as Haney Sewing and Sound in 1969 by his father Jack. It started off as a sewing machine store, but grew into a hub for electronics, appliances, barbecues and more.
Jack had worked for 20 years with the Singer Sewing Machine Company in New Westminster before he decided to go into business for himself. He rented space from a fabric company on the southwest corner of Dewdney Trunk Road and 224th Street, what is now the Black Rose restaurant, to open the sewing machine store.
Don jokes that his father thought “the colour TV thing might take off,” so he put a couple in the store’s showroom.
Jack also sold vinyl records.
Don joined the company in 1980, when he was 27. His brother Dave joined in 1989.
Previously, Don worked for the Royal Bank as a branch administration officer. But after spending a year in Prince George, his wife decided she didn’t want to raise a family moving from town to town.
At that time, he recalls, that all businesses in Maple Ridge were closed Sundays and Mondays. But with the Coquitlam Centre opening in August 1979 and other large department stores opening seven days a week, the Sheppard family had to make the same changes.
They started opening the store on Mondays in the 1980s and moved to seven days a week in the ’90s.
The store moved across the street to the current location, on the northwest corner of 224th St. and Dewdney Trunk Road, around 1980.
Shoppers then could find everything in the store from sewing machines, appliances, televisions and La-Z-Boy furniture.
But in the ’90s, the Sheppard brothers decided to stop selling furniture because they didn’t have the space to display it properly.
Instead, they started selling stereo and car audio equipment. But that market faded in the early 2000s.
They decided next to concentrate on the custom home market, particularly the installation of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers. They also moved to appliances, a segment of the business that, to this day, is growing every year, Don said.
The market for sewing machines was still strong then, but sales for such started to stagnate around 2005.
“It stopped becoming economical to sew your own clothes because of cheap clothing from China,” Don added.
He also figures people no longer had time to make their own clothes, especially if both parents were working.
Only when a new product was introduced did sewing machine sales surge. But the Sheppard brothers eventually let sewing machines go.
The store is now called Haney Appliance and Sound, although it still takes in sewing and serger machines for servicing.
And the most recent change at one of downtown’s flagship stores, Don retired as of April 30.
Dave, along with Don’s son Greg – who has been in the business for nine years – continue to run the newly renamed business.
But there is a void.
“He was always there to greet people,” Dave said of his brother, adding he’ll miss working with Don.
“It’s funny, because sometimes, even though our desks are 60 feet apart, sometimes we wouldn’t say any more than 10 words to each other because we were both busy doing our own little thing,” said Dave, adding that most people don’t get to work with a family member for that many years.
“And still like each other.”
The company’s success and longevity were in part because the Sheppard brothers shared the same vision for its direction, Dave said, as well as a willingness to change with the times.
The next change: in five to seven years, Haney Appliance and Sound will have to move again as the current location is part of the final phase of multi-tower condo project that will feature four buildings with 154 townhouses, condos and apartments.
The new development will stretch from Haney Plaza to 224th Street, and from Dewdney Trunk Road to Brown Avenue. It should be completed in 10 years.
Dave and Greg are keeping their eyes open for a new, and possibly larger store location.
Although, Dave said, they are not moving anytime soon.
Don is on the move. While he is going to miss talking with customers, he is looking forward to travelling more.
First on his list: Portugal.