Budds store closes after 90 years as 'whirlwind' windup nears end
One of the most iconic retailers in Kitchener held its final day of sales on Tuesday – ending a 90-year run in the city’s downtown.
“I’m feeling sad, but happy that we have reached this stage in our lives that we can enjoy things a little bit more and spend more time with our family,” said Stan Budd, one of four family members to own the Budds chain of stores.
The Budds announced last October that their three stores would close at the end of January.
That timetable has since been altered, with the Guelph location closing last weekend and the Kitchener store – long a fixture on King Street – shutting its doors Tuesday.
The third store, in Simcoe, is expected to remain open until the end of the month.
“It’s just been a whirlwind, (from) the day we announced until today,” said Jeff Budd, Stan’s nephew and another co-owner of the chain.
“I didn’t realize the impact that we were going to have on people.”
Family members say they’ve been hearing from a steady stream of current and former customers wanting to share their own memories of the stores.
Those comments were echoed Tuesday by shoppers browsing the selection at the Kitchener shop.
“A lot of people will miss this place,” said Erica Farkas, who praised it for its selection of women’s clothing and its level of service.
“It’s very friendly and warm.”
Co-owner Howie Budd spent 51 years working full-time at Budds – but that wasn’t the start of his association with the store.
During his childhood, his father – who founded the store, along with his three brothers – brought Howie to the store to sweep the floors, assemble boxes and do whatever other odd jobs needed doing.
“I saw how he and his brothers operated this business from a shoestring budget,” Howie said, noting that his son Jeff was brought up the same way a generation later.
For now, the Budds continue to own the 30,000-square-foot, three-storey building on King.
Howie Budd says they’ve already received several offers for the property – all of which they’ve turned down.
“They didn’t complement what the mayor and council and the planning department has in mind for the future of downtown Kitchener,” he said.
“We will not sell this building or lease it out to anyone that won’t complement the new direction of downtown Kitchener.”
So what are the Budds looking for in a new owner of the site?
Howie Budd’s answer to that question is succinct: “We’ll know it when we see it.”