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littlesfurnitureclosing 560Port Elgin’s Little’s Furniture is closing its doors June 30 after 54 years. 

Hub Staff

In 1963 Little's Furniture opened its doors at its original downtown Port Elgin site on Goderich Street, where Meridian Credit Union is now located. Now, 54 years later, the family-run furniture store will open its doors for the last time on June 30.

Little's Furniture owner Peter Little said that closing the store had been an extremely hard decision because of the deep family roots but decided it was time; and although he has no definitive plans, his life would now be taking a different direction. “It's going to be a major adjustment but I've got lots of hobbies and interests. I've got lots of things I've wanted to do for years,” said Little in an April 28 interview.

He informed his staff of the decision to close the store in March. “That was probably the hardest conversation I've had. I feel responsible for people and that was tough," he said. 

The Little family moved to Port Elgin from Flesherton in 1957. Little's father, Peter Senior, worked in the furniture business as well as the funeral business. “We were kind of nomadic,” said Little, explaining that prior to Flesherton they had lived in Blenheim; before that, the Cambridge area. “[Peter Senior] was watching for an opportunity and was never afraid to take a step somewhere,” he said.

The opportunity came in 1963 when Peter Senior and his wife Fern Little bought and renamed Davey's Furniture in Port Elgin, a store at which Peter Senior had been employed the six years they had been in Port Elgin. “We were a typical mom and pop family business in the day,” said Little. “Dad ran the store and mom ran the books and I had two kid brothers that worked here, so there was five of us and a couple of other people,” he said.

In 1971 Little's Furniture moved across the street into their then new location, now CIBC. “It was a grocery store at the time, McKeown's grocery store, and there were apartments above and there was a ballroom there that was tied to the hotel, which was next door.” Little said that the back of the building was where the beer store used to be located.

“We stayed there for about three years and then ran out of room,” said Little, who explained that they started building their current location in 1974 which, at the time, was in the country with a two-lane highway and fields all around. In 1975 Little's Furniture moved in. “We doubled what we were downtown then we put an addition on after we were here a few years,” he said.

Little said that the store’s sign has moved from location to location and that the word “Little’s” was fashioned after his mother’s hand writing, something he didn’t learn until later. “My niece told me,” he said.

In the early years, Little said that furniture stores were basically general stores. “We sold carpet, paint, paper, hard surface, luggage, you name it. Everything was in the furniture store we had,” he said. “Then about 20 years ago we had to tighten up distribution.” He explained that the industry was changing and suppliers were disappearing. “We had to focus more so instead of 150 companies, we deal with 20 now. It's just a whole different story now,” Little said.

Little took over the business from his parents in 2000, the same year a La-Z-Boy gallery was added. “That was kind of a metamorphosis for us because up until then we were a general store.” He said that the windows at the front of the store were also added in 2000.

“We've been lucky through the years, we've had good lines,” said Little. “We've tried to keep our focus Canadian and people have appreciated that...we're often getting second and third generation [customers].”

Little didn't know what was happening with the building yet. “It might get sold, it might get leased,” but he added that he had had several calls about it. “I've got someone living upstairs for the next year so that's a consideration,” he said.

All the stock in the Little’s Furniture has been marked down in hopes of clearing out prior to closing. “We'll probably do some further mark downs as time goes on but things are going out of the door surprisingly quick,” he said. “I'm fairly optimistic that most of it will be gone by June 30 because we've pretty much cleaned out the warehouses now and most of the stock is on the floor.”

Little said it was hard not to replenish stock as it sells. “When something goes off the floor you're always replacing and getting it rolling in.”

Little praised his customer base and the Saugeen Shores community. “They've given us a lot of support. We've tried to be involved with the local community with a lot of things and they've been good to us over the years, which is important. The door swings both ways,” he said.

jennifer peterPeter Little with Little's Furniture staff member, Jennifer Saward.

1965 560Little’s Furniture’s second anniversary at its original location, where Meridian Credit Union is now, 1965. Little's Furniture photo

littlesfurniture1971Little’s Furniture’s second location, where CIBC is now, 1971. Little's Furniture photo

grandopening1971 560Peter Little and his mother Mrs. Little at the grand opening of Little’s Furniture’s second location, where CIBC is now, 1971. Little's Furniture photo

mrsfernlittle 560Mrs. Fern Little in the office of the original Little’s Furniture, 1967. Little's Furniture photo

newlocation1975Little’s Furniture, 1975, after moving into their current location. Little's Furniture photo

peterlittle1975Peter Little Junior, 1975. Little's Furniture photo

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