Family560Ralph Hornsby and his family at the 2017 BRASS Awards at Lakeshore Recreation June 10. Front row, from left, Ralph and son David Hornsby; back row, from left, Ralph’s wife Anne Schwandt, daughter Cathy McNamara and grandchildren Sarah Clayton and Dan McNamara.

Hub Staff

Surrounded by his family, Ralph Hornsby of Ralph’s Hi-Way Shopette was honoured with a Saugeen Shores Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award. Hornsby received a standing ovation from the Saugeen Shores business community when presented with the award at the 2017 BRASS Awards at Lakeshore Recreation June 10.

Saugeen Shores Mayor Mike Smith said that he remembered when Ralph first opened his store. “That was the centre of our community and continued to be the centre of our community almost forever, even moreso than the town hall,” said Smith. “Every time there was an election politicians were at Ralph's standing there shaking hands with everybody that was going in because everybody in town went in and out of there at some time. It was a great spot.”

“Tonight I'm paying tribute to our own Saugeen Shores dynasty,” said Mini Jacques who presented the award to Hornsby, reminiscing of the iconic Port Elgin store.

Jacques said she first heard the name Hornsby in Grade 6 when she met Ralph's son David who had just moved to Port Elgin and had told everyone that his dad was opening a store in town that would be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. Jacques said she and her classmates thought David must have been making this up. “In Port Elgin stores were closed on Mondays and the only time they were ever open until 11 p.m. was on Saturdays when farmers came to town.”

It was soon realized that David was telling the truth. It was the ‘70s and “like now, it was a boom time,” said Jacques. Douglas Point, now Bruce Power, was in its early years.

Jacques said that three generations have made Ralph’s survive for 46 years, saying that is something we can all strive for. “I want you new business owners, the young business owners, the established business owners, those business owners that are tired and think, ‘Why am I doing this?’ I want you to learn something from King Ralph,” she said.

Ralph's sold everything from toys to gift wear, school supplies grocery items and baby food and became known for the phrase, ‘If Ralph doesn't have it you don't need it.’

“Ralph was very smart. We were going through not only a boom for business but a generation boom and lots of babies being born,” said Jacques. “This is happening right now so if you want to get people in through your door like Ralph, start thinking of all the babies being born.”

Because Ralph’s was open seven days a week, Jacques said there was always a line up Christmas morning of people wanting to buy batteries. “[Ralph] was consistent and he proved that if you’re consistent, business follows.”

Ralph was also a big supporter of the community, sponsoring local sports teams and events, and he was an active chamber member. “He helped out with events... his place was the hub for tickets that were sold. If an event was going on in Saugeen Shores there was no question that Ralph would sell the tickets. You just dropped off your envelope and tickets with your float and he looked after the ticket sales for you,” said Jacques.

“This a Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Jacques. “When I say lifetime I mean life. They gave everything.”

Hornsby got his start with a store near Kitchener before settling in Port Elgin and said he credited the success of Ralph’s Hi-Way Shopette on a lot of luck and a lot of hours. “I never minded getting up any mornings to go to work,” said Hornsby.

Accommodating people is what Hornsby said he has enjoyed most through his career and noted the importance of customer service. “Without repeat business you really don't have much.”

He said he didn’t think he’d done anything special, that he just wanted to make a living and raise his children but added, “I’ve enjoyed it.”

Ralph560Ralph Hornsby at the 2017 BRASS Awards, where he received a Lifetime Achievement Award.

See: Chamber announces new Lifetime Achievement Award recipient