Lowery's...standing the test of time
In a time when businesses come and go faster than a dot com venture, there are few mainstays. In Thunder Bay, however, one company has not only stood the test of time but has grown into a modern business while maintaining virtues and values built a century ago. This year Lowerys Ltd. celebrates 100 years in business 100 years of growth, expansion and progress.
Lowerys Ltd. originated as a company called "The Bazaar" back in 1885 or "Mr. Meikle's New Store" as the newspaper "The Sentinel" reported in an article written in 1884. The original building on the corner of Park and Cumberland Streets that was home to Lowerys for over 80 years still stands today. It was built in the era of businesses with names like the Belmont Club House, Mark's Mills and "The New Hospital". On the day of its opening, the sporting event making news was the cricket match between "Old Country" and Canada", to be held at Waverley Park. What an amazing picture of how long ago the Lowerys concept began! Port Arthur was a young, growing city and Lowerys would grow with it, starting with the purchase of the Bazaar by Sam Lowery in 1905.
Sam Lowery had two daughters Frances and Ruth. Frances married Andrew Christie and they had three children, Glenn, Karen and Brian, who is Lowerys current President. Sam ran the store that sold gifts, stationery, china and newspapers until his passing in 1942. The Lowerys emporium served as a lending library (there were no libraries at that time) and textbook provider for students and eventually moved into more defined product lines throughout the 1940's. After the death of Sam Lowery, Andrew Christie (Brian Christie's father) who was actively exploring more profitable methods of business, expanded the building, offices, and created more storage, until his passing in 1986.
In 1953 Brian Christie began his career with Lowerys as a part-time after school employee and soon after graduating from high school, assumed a full-time position in sales.
Between 1960 and 1980, Lowerys would experience immense growth and change. Lowerys joined forces with a company known as Harry Wilson Sales. This company was heavily involved with office machine sales and service. This new venture would become an integral component in the evolution and success of Lowerys. Office Machines included calculators, typewriters, time clocks and the first dry toner photocopiers. In the early seventies, the building on Park and Cumberland expanded with the addition of a mezzanine and 13 new employees. Soon, changes in the Port Arthur Urban Renewal plan began and Brian realized that buildings like the old "Laskin" building that acted as warehouse space would no longer be available. In 1972, Brian Christie expanded the business to their present 16,000 square foot location at 581 Red River Road. Lowerys then became the exclusive Canon dealer in Thunder Bay and added numerous product lines including furniture and computers to illustrate its "Everything You Need" philosophy. Joining the powerhouse buying group Basics allowed Lowerys to be competitive in the expanding office products market.
In the 90's, the Park and Cumberland location closed its doors and ended the era of china and novelties, and store manager Elsie Dumbrell retired after 46 years of service. Office supplies and equipment were the new focus and Lowerys went full steam ahead. Over the past 10 years, Lowerys has experienced considerable growth and expansion, with over 80 employees and the acquisition of stores in Fort Frances, Kenora and various satellite stores across Northern Ontario.
Four out of five of Brian Christie's children work in the Thunder Bay store: Scott Christie, Sales Manager, Kim Christie, Purchasing Manager, Shawn and Andrew Christie, Machine Sales Division. All four have worked with the company since they were children and currently share ownership of the company.
In 2000, Lowerys purchased SRC, a local printer, and became part owners in the Compusmart franchise located at the Red River Road location. This was the beginning of the new chapter, now known as "The Lowerys Group of Companies".
If you ask the Christies the secret to their success, they will share some basic fundamentals that include hard work, keeping up with change, good employees, service and building customer trust. They will also share their philosophy of the importance of giving back to the community through
volunteer work and community involvement. As a matter of fact, it's that commitment to community that separates Lowerys from its many competitors.
What lies ahead for the centurion company that grew and grew? Well, you can count on more growth and expansion, a new generation of office expertise and the continuation of the same family values that have made Lowerys the success it is today.