A Red Deer store with roots extending back to the 1940s is down to its final few weeks.
Williams Stationery is liquidating its stock, with the 6880 Gaetz Ave. store expected to cease operations April 26. Owner Brenda Williams said the workload associated with the store had increased with the death of her husband and business partner Des Williams two years ago, and she received an offer for the building that was too attractive to pass up.
The store’s name came from Des’s parents, Glyn and Blanche Williams.
They moved to Red Deer from Calgary in 1954 and purchased the existing Fletcher Stationery store at 4919 Ross St. from Ernie Fletcher.
Ernie’s son Ross said his father started his stationery business after the Second World War, and operated it in conjunction with Fletcher Printing — which was founded in 1930 and is now operated by Ross.
Glyn, who was the son of a Welsh coal miner, met Ernie in the course of his sales duties with Moore Business Forms of Calgary.
“He dropped in to see Dad once a month or so,” said Ross.
Ernie, it turned out, had become disillusioned with the stationery business.
“He just got tired of selling five cent pencils rather than printing,” said Ross, adding that his father had tried unsuccessfully to find a suitable manager for the stationery side of the business.
Ernie sold the shop to Glyn and Blanche, and moved Fletcher Printing to its current location at 4838 52nd St.
Brenda believes her in-laws had the only stationery store in Red Deer until Prairie Business Machines — now Prairie Office Plus — opened in 1961.
“They did very well in the stationery business.”
In 1979, the Williams opened a second store at 6880 Gaetz Ave. The original Ross Street location closed in 1990.
Des bought the business from his parents, and Brenda had plenty of opportunity to hear her in-laws reminisce.
“They talked about how they would close Wednesday afternoons, but they were open Saturdays and never open Sundays.”
Cleaning up the store in preparation for its closing also provided a history lesson for Brenda, who found some 1950s-era catalogues.
“My goodness, the prices are cheaper today than they were back then,” she marvelled.
“Paper was terribly expensive back then.”
Another example of price deflation relates to calculators, which cost much less today than their adding machine ancestors did decades ago.
Some products have disappeared, said Brenda, such as the once-popular list-finder teledex, which allowed users to look up a phone number by selecting a letter and pushing a button. The previously ubiquitous rollodex is also harder to find.
“And people can’t get over how much they cost,” she added, attributing this to the higher expenses associated with reduced production.
Reaction to the news of Williams Stationery’s closure has not been good.
“People are so upset,” said Brenda.
“There are some that go back to Glyn and Blanche’s time.”
The half-dozen staff who work at Williams Stationery are already finding new positions. As for Brenda, she plans to put her feet up for a change.
“Just spend more time with family and enjoy life a little bit. It’s pretty short — Des never got to retire.”
She will remain in Red Deer, and acknowledged that part-time work might be a possibility in the future.
“Unless the right thing comes along, and I might jump right into it.”