December 2020 | vol. iii, #12




You can always tell when Christmas is just around the corner. Stores start playing holiday music, eggnog is stocked on store shelves, and a seemingly endless array of Christmas movies begins playing on TV.

Holiday-themed movies, especially those produced by Hallmark Channel, are set predominately in some charming small town in the U.S. However, they’re not always filmed there.

In fact, Almonte, Ont., is the filming location for many Christmas films. The quaint, scenic town, in the Mississippi valley about 40 minutes west of Ottawa, is the ideal spot to set the Christmas scene. And the town’s hardware store, L.G. Lee & Sons, is a popular filming spot due to its architectural charm. The outlet is a division of Lee Valley Tools.

“We just have that small-town look that they're after,” says Inga Jutila, manager of L.G. Lee & Sons. The store, on the town’s main street, has been featured in several holiday movies, like “Unlocking Christmas,” but only in minor scenes. The store’s big break wasn’t actually a Christmas movie, but a comedy movie called “The Exchange.”

Being a filming hotspot has its ups and downs. “I had to empty the entire store of our products and they set up their scenario in our store,” said Jutila. “Sometimes it can be a hassle, with some road closures and that type of thing.”
Even with these disruptions, Jutila sees the benefit of movie productions in Almonte and the surrounding area.

“It creates a buzz in the town, which quickly spreads to all the other small, nearby communities and people come down because they’re curious. They end up shopping and eating here in Almonte, so it does generate business for retailers.”





COVID has been a scary and unknown time for retailers. Too many have had to cope with a COVID-19 case that came from employees or customers. What exactly happens when a case arises in your store?

Dolly’s Home Hardware in Qualicum Beach, B.C., found out firsthand, even though the store had followed safety protocols.

When store owner Liz Virgin found out that one of the staff members had tested positive for COVID, she wasn’t sure what to do next. Virgin tried to call her area manager, but that office was having phone and internet outages. “Then I phoned our head office, and they were awesome. They just walked us through what other stores had been through and what to do.”

The store was advised to close for a day to do a deep clean. Staff who were scheduled that day, along with some additional staff who offered to come in, worked in the store to toss any frequently touched items, and wipe and sanitize everywhere.

When it came to letting customers know what was going on, the store decided to inform the public right away and received positive feedback for being transparent, Virgin explained.

The morning after the closure, a lineup of eager customers was waiting to shop, a testament to the community’s support of Virgin and her store.




Payzant Home Hardware Building Centre was established by Matthew Payzant’s grandfather in 1964. Recently, the company, based in Lower Sackville, N.S., added its eighth store, while the head office has grown to 23,000 square feet, with a 5,000-square-foot design showroom.

“We’re a company that wants to grow and we’re not content with the status quo,” explains Payzant, a 2017 Young Retailer award winner.

After earning a bachelor of commerce and working in marketing in the foodservice industry, Payzant missed helping people. So he submitted a proposal to his uncle, Andrew Payzant, the company’s CEO. The younger Payzant landed a job on the order desk. “The company felt as familiar to me as home,” he says.

When a snow load collapsed a warehouse roof, Payzant became involved in revamping and creating a state-of-the-art drive-through warehouse that covers 10,000 square feet.

With his uncle as a vocal advocate for new ideas, and a supportive team, Payzant’s enthusiasm for marketing, merchandising, and innovation led him to recognition as one of the winners of the Young Retailer of the Year award from the North American Hardware and Paint Association three years ago.

“The award reinforced and reminded me of the value of leadership and the importance of the role that small business plays,” he says. “The more we work together and support each other, the better it is for our communities.”