The Glebe’s Good Sport

680 Bank Street, currently the home to Kunstadt Sports. Image: July 2014.
680 Bank Street, currently the home to Kunstadt Sports. Image: July 2014.
Note: as with any new toy, it will be used a fair amount more than it strictly necessary at first. That is, since I finally found a footnote tool that I like, I can finally add notes to these stories. Once the novelty wears off, I’m sure that I will use them more sparingly.

Business, such as it is, can either seem to be eternal or ephemeral. It sometimes feels that a business will last a century if it can last a year. Of course, the space a business occupies can also be as permanent or as fleeting. 680 Bank, at the south west corner of Bank and Clemow in The Glebe, has definitely seen its share of both types. To boot, both before and after the occupation of its longest-lasting tenant (Olympic Sport Shop, at nearly 40 years), this little-storefront-that-could has not once – but twice – served as temporary quarters for a Bank Street neighbour ravaged by fire.

In spite of the general excitement for apartment construction in Ottawa during the 1920s and 1930s, not all plans were able to materialize. Source: Ottawa Journal, March 27, 1930.
In spite of the general excitement for apartment construction in Ottawa during the 1920s and 1930s, not all plans were able to materialize. Source: Ottawa Journal, March 27, 1930.

Occasionally, a parcel of land will remain vacant long after those around it have been constructed on and the south west corner of Bank and Clemow is one of them. Plans come and go, but issues in timing, the raising of capital, or just plain lack of desire may see the lot remain empty. This lot, at least at one point, was coveted by a small consortium of local builders that had hatched a plan to construct a $200,000 apartment building. Just another example of unbuilt Ottawa.

Entry from the 1949 City Directory. Note that the stated position on the north west corner of Bank and Clemow is incorrect. It would amended in later editions of the directory. Source: Ottawa City Directory, 1949, Pink Page 19.
Entry from the 1949 City Directory. Note that the stated position on the north west corner of Bank and Clemow is incorrect. It would amended in later editions of the directory. Source: Ottawa City Directory, 1949, Pink Page 19.

This small building at 680 Bank Street in The Glebe first appeared in the Ottawa City Directories in 1948 as an office for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). 1It has been somewhat difficult to reconcile the advertisements which appear in the local news papers with the record in the City Directories. While there do appear to be discrepancies between the advertisements published in the local papers and the listings in the directories, it would seem that company advertisements would be the more accurate of the two. This arrangement did not last long, however. This was probably due to the completion of the Veterans’ Memorial Building (East Memorial Building) in 1949 – allowing the number of small DVA offices around the city to be placed under a single roof.

Fire at 394 Bank. Source: Ottawa Journal, January 26, 1950, Page 1.
Fire at 394 Bank. Source: Ottawa Journal, January 26, 1950, Page 1.

On January 26, 1950, a large fire broke out up the street at 394 Bank causing an estimated $400,000 damage. 2It wasn’t even the first electrical fire that the building faced. During the summer of 1945, a short in the fuse panel in the National Labour Hall rendered the residents in the apartments on the third floor homeless. One of those residents was Mrs. Britton, whose husband Lionel was overseas at the time. In addition to leaving 10 homeless, a number of businesses also found themselves without a premises. Three of the businesses were destroyed in their entirety by the fire: the Colonial Art Glass Company, United Refrigeration, and most relevant to this story, the Canadian Tire Associate Store. 3CCB Electric Works, the Burroughs Adding Machine Company, and the National Labour Hall received considerable smoke and water damage The cause of the fire, as reported by Ottawa’s Fire Prevention Bureau, was a short circuit in Canadian Tire’s neon sign. Like most neon signs, it contained a 15,000 volt transformer and the short heated the wires enough to melt the metal covering. 4Ottawa Journal, January 27, 1950, pp. 1, 16. The Fire Prevention Bureau was established by the Ottawa Fire Department in 1914.

The first ad for Leroy and MacNish's Canadian Tire Associate Store. Super-Lastic was the corporation's brand of tires. Source: Ottawa Journal, June 8, 1935, Page 20.
The first ad for Leroy and MacNish’s Canadian Tire Associate Store. Super-Lastic was the corporation’s brand of tires. Source: Ottawa Journal, June 8, 1935, Page 20.

Of the businesses rendered homeless, it seems that none were more popular than the Canadian Tire Associate Store. Established in 1935 by business partners Ed Leroy and Malcolm MacNish, the store quickly outgrew its first premises at 398 Bank and by 1939, it had moved to the much larger storefront at 394 Bank.

It was distinctive Canadian Tire triangle logo that helped bring them in. It was also the neon-lit version that rendered the retailer homeless. Source: Ottawa Journal, February 1, 1950, Page 19.
Leroy and MacNish quickly sprung into action, promising that they’d be back in action quickly and hinting that the new store was ready to come soon. Source: Ottawa Journal, February 1, 1950, Page 19.

Following the destruction of the store in 1950, Leroy & MacNish moved quickly to find a temporary location from which to conduct business. The chosen location was none other than the recently-vacated premises at 680 Bank. The reason why it was a temporary location is because plans had already been made for the construction of a larger modern store. The Canadian Tire Corporation purchased a lot at the corner of Laurier and Kent from the Kirby Realty Co. for $30,000 back in February of 1945.

The property at Kent and Laurier was the highlight property transfer in February 1945. Source: Ottawa Journal, March 8, 1945, Page 7.
The property at Kent and Laurier was the highlight property transfer in February 1945. Source: Ottawa Journal, March 8, 1945, Page 7.

As the flames ravaged the location at 394 Bank, the wheels (tires?) were already in motion. A new store was indeed in the offing. One that would see the company step confidently into the new dawn of the postwar period (or at least, so the ad copy claimed).  The modern 21,000 square foot store at Kent and Laurier opened on July 5, 1952. The event was marked by the presence of acting Mayor L.L. Coulter and every customer that passed through was given a free “Spanish style Gaucho hat.”

1952-07-04-Full-Page-Ad-Kent-Laurier-Grand-Opening-Page-11-Display
Announcement of the Grant Opening. Source: Ottawa Journal, July 4, 1952, Page 11.
The opening was quite a party. Source: Ottawa Journal, July 10, 1952, Page 19.
The opening was quite a party. Source: Ottawa Journal, July 10, 1952, Page 19.

While occupying 680 Bank, it was quite clear that the premises was much too small for the popularity of the store. At only 3,200 square feet, Leroy and MacNish found themselves dealing with lineups out the door, no parking, and angry customers who showed their dissatisfaction by discarding their spent oil filters and tires nearby.

The only image of the former Westboro Canadian Tire that I was able to locate. Though it had been actually open for a part of 1953, its official grand opening was May 1, 1954.
The only image of the former Westboro Canadian Tire that I was able to locate. Though it had been actually open for a part of 1953, its official grand opening was May 1, 1954. Source: Watawa Life.

Of course, the Canadian Tire story in Ottawa continued further, with the opening of another store in Westboro two years later. Leroy continued with the Kent store while MacNish set sail for the Westboro location.

From the Ottawa City Directory, 1953. Once Canadian Tire departed, the Department of Fisheries rented out the space.
From the Ottawa City Directory, 1953. Once Canadian Tire departed, the Department of Fisheries rented out the space.

Following the departure of Canadian Tire in the Summer of 1952, the little building was once again put to use for federal government purposes: this time for the Department of Fisheries. As with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs before it, I am not certain about the function that the small office served for them. Once again, the Crown did not need the building for long and was gone by 1958. 5Though a small handful of advertisements in the Journal list Budget Motor Sales being at 680 Bank, the business was located at the back of the lot and had an address of 684 Bank. The 1956 fire insurance map shows the layout with 680 Bank as a Department of Fisheries warehouse and 684 Bank as a small structure at the back of the lot.
1956-Insurance

During a fundraiser in 1961, Physiotherapist Margaret McCormack demonstrates some of the work of the recently-formed Ottawa Rehabilitation Institute with four-year-old Leslie Cody. Source: Ottawa Journal, January 14, 1961, Page 16.
During a fundraiser in 1961, Physiotherapist Margaret McCormack demonstrates some of the work of the recently-formed Ottawa Rehabilitation Institute with four-year-old Leslie Cody. Source: Ottawa Journal, January 14, 1961, Page 16.

The next tenant in the space was the Ottawa Rehabilitation Institute. The Institute was formed at the end of 1957 by the Welfare Council of Ottawa in order to provide rehabilitation services to Ottawans with physical disabilities. The Rehabilitation Centre did not remain there for long either. By 1967, it had formed a partnership with the Royal Ottawa and occupied some space there before moving to its own premises on Meadowlands.

The original Olympic Sports storefront at 753 Bank Street. Source: Ottawa Journal, October 26, 1967.
The old Olympic Sports storefront at 753 Bank Street. Today, it’s home to Naji’s. Source: Ottawa Journal, October 26, 1967.

A Glebe institution, Olympic Sports Shop was established by Karl Havelcik in 1952 and quickly moved to 753 Bank Street. While the Olympic shop began as a smoke shop with sports equipment being sold on the side, Havelcik, who had experience selling sports equipment in his native Vienna, developed a solid reputation in sports equipment. In addition to a mixture of high quality and low prices, Havelcik’s business was doubtlessly bolstered by his high level of community involvement as a popular soccer coach.

Olympic’s grand opening took place on October 26, 1967 and it quickly solidified as one of the Glebe’s favourite destinations for sporting goods.

 

Workers restore the facade of 680 Bank following the departure of Olympic Sports Shop. Source: Google Maps (Street View, October 2007).
Workers restore the facade of 680 Bank following the departure of Olympic Sports Shop. Source: Google Maps (Street View, October 2007).

In 2006, after nearly 40 years in that location and 55 years in business, Olympic closed its doors for good. While a number of plans were floated (including for an Irish Pub), the next to open was Pannier, a food shop. The Pannier then closed in 2008.

680 Bank once again provides temporary refuge. Image Source: Google Maps (Street View: June 2009)
680 Bank once again provides temporary refuge. Image Source: Google Maps (Street View: June 2009)

Once again, it was time for 680 Bank to be an obliging neighbour. In April 2009, the Tommy & Lefebvre, again up the street at 464 Bank, burned. While they were rebuilding, they conducted business at 680. By September of that same year, Kunstadt Sports 6Kunstadt appears to have been established in or around 1992. At least, that’s the first citation I was able to locate in the Ottawa Citizen‘s archives. took over and refurbished the space and has been there since. They are doubtlessly building the same relationship with The Glebe that Olympic did before it.

Notes   [ + ]

1. It has been somewhat difficult to reconcile the advertisements which appear in the local news papers with the record in the City Directories. While there do appear to be discrepancies between the advertisements published in the local papers and the listings in the directories, it would seem that company advertisements would be the more accurate of the two.
2. It wasn’t even the first electrical fire that the building faced. During the summer of 1945, a short in the fuse panel in the National Labour Hall rendered the residents in the apartments on the third floor homeless. One of those residents was Mrs. Britton, whose husband Lionel was overseas at the time.
3. CCB Electric Works, the Burroughs Adding Machine Company, and the National Labour Hall received considerable smoke and water damage
4. Ottawa Journal, January 27, 1950, pp. 1, 16. The Fire Prevention Bureau was established by the Ottawa Fire Department in 1914.
5. Though a small handful of advertisements in the Journal list Budget Motor Sales being at 680 Bank, the business was located at the back of the lot and had an address of 684 Bank. The 1956 fire insurance map shows the layout with 680 Bank as a Department of Fisheries warehouse and 684 Bank as a small structure at the back of the lot.
1956-Insurance
6. Kunstadt appears to have been established in or around 1992. At least, that’s the first citation I was able to locate in the Ottawa Citizen‘s archives.

2 Comments

  1. Having grown up very close to this corner, I’ve heard plenty of stories and information about this location.

    – The addresses 680 and 684 (which appears to be an address without a building) was reportedly owned by one older widowed lady. Several neighbours had attempted to purchase the property over the years before her husband passed away, but somehow, after his death, her accountant has ended up with it.

    – At some time in the past 60+ years, a portion of the property of 160 Clemow was sold to the owner of 680 Glebe – the original lot line being closer to the original rear of the building on 680 Bank (there is an addition and a laneway, now blocked by a temporary structure to store sports equipment).

    – Although with such a large amount of drive-by traffic coupled with a reasonable amount of parking spaces, there were large stretches in time after Olympic left that it had been unrented and not generating income.

    – The neighbours fought the Irish Pub, which as well all know now didn’t end up happening, although a lot of money was apparently spent on the fitup.

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