Most of us who have grown up in Canada, have probably made numerous trips to one of our national institutions, Canadian Tire. From eagerly awaiting catalogues with the latest, smartest home improvement items, to repairing every facet of our vehicles, Canadian Tire has always been there.
Port Perry’s Canadian Tire store has seen at least three locations in the past 50 years. First a small store on Queen Street, to a larger outlet in the Port Perry Plaza, to its present location on Simcoe Street, just south of town.
One of the commonalities in all stores is the friendliness and knowledge-ability of the staff, largely due to the environment created by owners, and new owners Terry and Andy Leitch are no exception. Having been successfully involved with the Canadian Tire organization for 14 years, this hard working couple has never been afraid of a challenge.
Born in Montreal, Terry moved to Stouffville at an early age. Her father, a representative for Gulf Oil, later purchased by Petro Canada, travelled a fair amount, but fortunately the family was able to call Stouffville home, at least until Terry completed high school.
During those years, Terry waitressed at several neighbourhood restaurants, and also worked at the Sleepy Hollow Golf & Country Club. It was while in high school that she met a red haired boy named Andy Leitch.
“Andy was actually friends with my sister and a few of her friends,” Terry explained. “Once we met though, we knew it was meant to be.”
Andy, born in Newmarket, lived with his family in Churchill, a small community just outside of Ballantrae. His father had a very successful masonry business, where Andy, when he wasn’t dating Terry, worked in his off hours. The family business grew, and when Andy completed school he decided to join and run the business.
“A number of masonry projects that we worked on in this area are still standing”, Andy said, proudly.
Terry attended Trent University, majoring in business, which prepared her for her career as a marketing representative for Turbo Resources Ltd., in Oshawa. In 1983 the couple married and decided to make Port Perry their home. Their two daughters, Jordan and Alex, were born within the next five years and life was good for the happy couple.
In 1993 an opportunity arose for Terry and Andy to purchase an Imperial Oil franchise, along highway 401 in the Woodstock Area. “The work was tough and the hours awful, but we did our best and made it work.” Terry clarified. It must have been gratifying, as they acquired a second franchise nearby and owned them for ten years.
When an opportunity arose to invest in a Canadian Tire franchise, both Terry and Andy were very interested. “Canadian Tire was a second home for me,” Andy said, smiling.
It took about six months of training and another six months of waiting for a store to become available, and when they finally received the phone call they had mixed feelings. “We were so excited to receive the call”, Terry said, “Until we learned the location we would be running was in Winnipeg.” They had hoped for a store closer to home, however both agreed it was an entry into the chain, and certainly not forever.
Three years later another store became available in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, and the couple jumped at the opportunity. “New Brunswick is so beautiful and we just loved it there.”
They seriously contemplated staying forever, but unfortunately the economy in that area was not great, and when the Greenwood, Nova Scotia store became available, the Leitch family picked up its roots and moved on.
Shortly after they purchased the store, the government of Nova Scotia decided to raise the HST to 15%. Many shoppers crossed the border to buy everything from gasoline to clothing, not a great future for Nova Scotia retailers.
In 2013 the Port Perry store became available, and when Terry called Andy, they both jumped with enthusiasm at the prospect. “The chances of us getting the store were small, as it was a pretty prestigious area, but we applied none-the-less,” Terry explained.
You can imagine how excited they were when they received the call, explaining the store could be theirs. “We had five days to make up our mind,” Terry said. “I was already in the area and I called Andy, who dropped what he was doing, grabbed the dog, made his way to the nearest ferry and drove the 18 hours to get here.”
They purchased the franchise and bought a house in Janetville. “It was a crazy weekend,” Andy explained. “We had closed the deal on the store, bought the house and got word that our house in Nova Scotia had caught fire and burned to the ground.”
The next few months were a total upset, as they lived in a trailer in Nova Scotia while they waited for their store to sell. The end result was a happy one, and Terry and Andy moved back to where it all began.
They have since left Janetville and moved to Port Perry and enjoy the community. They speak highly of their business and love the area. Andy spent an entire day writing personal Christmas cards to each of their eighty staff members, and both he and Terry can usually be found in the store.
“Port Perry is our home,” they both agreed. “The plan is for us to retire here.” They are enjoying their new granddaughter, and attending as many local events as possible. For Terry and Andy Leitch, Canadian Tire is more than just tires.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at photosNtravel.com
Jonathan van Bilsen
Join Jonathan van Bilsen in the Standard as he begins a series of feature articles on prominent residents of North Durham in his new column, The Story Behind The Person.