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Campus Home Hardware owners retire after 42 years of serving Guelph's south end

After 40 years of serving customers at the Campus Home Hardware in the south end, owners Alex and Helen Maciag called it a career and retired about two weeks ago

After opening the Home Hardware store in the south end of Guelph over 40 years ago, owners Alex and Helen Maciag called it a career and retired about two weeks ago. 

Alex opened the first location of the store in the Campus Estates plaza on Harvard Road in 1977 with then-business partner Guy Bauer.

Back then, the south end of Guelph was not nearly as filled in as it is now. The store serviced that end of town, as well as Arkell and Puslinch.

In 1992 the store moved to its current location further south on Gordon Street, near Kortright Road. 

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Alex at home on Monday. “We have been in it for 42 years. It was time to retire.”

After only a couple of years, the current store needed to be expanded from 3,500 square feet to its current 5,000 square foot size.

Helen said she is thankful for all of the customers who have come through the store over the years. 

“People allowed us to be a part of their projects, whatever they were doing,” said Helen. “I think we were a part of their lives and the people were a part of our lives.”

The store was never intended to be a big box hardware store. 

“What we tried to run was a service hardware store. We didn’t try to be the hardware store for the entire city of Guelph, we worked mostly in this area here,” said Alex.

That was a whirlwind couple of years for Alex and Helen.

“I met Helen in 1975, we got married in 1976 and bought a house that same year. We went into business in 1977,” said Alex. “I’d be afraid to try and do it now, but at that time there was no fear.”

The couple raised their daughter Amy in the store. She grew up working there before moving on to a career of her own.

“She worked with us at the store until she graduated university,” said Alex.

She was one of a number of people who worked their way through post-secondary education at the store, said Alex.

Some other staff had chosen to stay on long-term. Either way, Alex said he tried to treat all of the employees with respect.

“We did things on a personal level,” said Alex. “That’s why all of our guys came back.

“They felt like they were part of the store, they weren’t just coming in to spend eight hours and then leaving without being appreciated,” he added.

Helen said the couple has been receiving gifts like flowers and cards from well-wishers since they retired.

“We’re busy right now, so it hasn’t hit us yet,” she said. “Later when we are a little less busy it is maybe going to be different.”

The couple intends to continue volunteering in retirement and supporting many of the local charities and service clubs they have through the store over the years.

“We are a part of the community and we serve the community,” said Helen of the reason they give back. “We have been blessed.”

Alex recalled one particular SNAFU that didn’t seem funny at the time but he can laugh at now that many years have passed.

“One time a chap ordered a pail of chinking for a cottage,” said Alex of a flexible sealant often used to fill the joints in log homes. “Whoever took the order on the other side of the phone decided to send us a tractor trailer load of 60,000 pounds of it.”

“It would be a big cottage — he only needed the one pail,” he added, chuckling.

He also remembered the widespread northeast blackout of 2003, when power was out across much of Ontario and the eastern United States for days.

Alex took a van to the warehouse and loaded up on batteries, flashlights and kerosene.

“We turned on a generator and turned on the lights and we never closed,” said Alex. Everyone was coming in getting what they needed and the generator has sat in the garage and never been run since.”

Alex and Helen have owned the store since Bauer retired, about 15 years after they first opened the doors.

“He used to come in once a month to make sure we were running it right,” said Alex. “He’s still a good friend.”

Alex said he prided himself on having a bit of everything in the store. He said many big box stores only stock the top selling items, but they often miss the little things that may save a job.

“If you don’t have it, you can’t sell it,” he said.

The new owner of the store is Andre Belisle, who owns the Home Hardware locations on Wellington Street and Grange Road in Guelph.

The couple said they want to thank the customers who have supported them over the years, the staff that have worked with them and are wishing the new owners all the best.

“It’s been a lot of fun. We serviced our customers the best we could,” said Alex.