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Opportunity knocking elsewhere

Knell’s Door and Hardware closed its doors on Monday, leaving a gap along Arthur Street in Elmira.

The Elmira store is a branch of William Knell and Company, founded in Kitchener in 1906. Last year Knell’s consolidated its three Victoria Street locations into a new building on Shirley Drive, near Bingemans. Now the stock and employees from the Elmira store will be moving to the same location.

Dave Clutton, Brian Bishop and Rod Beer are some of the familiar faces at Knell's new Kitchener location (right).
Dave Clutton, Brian Bishop and Rod Beer are some of the familiar faces at Knell's new Kitchener location (right).

General manager Robert Dippell emphasized that Knell’s will continue to serve customers in the Elmira area.
“The whole idea when we purchased this building was to be accessible to the region – Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and even into Guelph. We are sort of in the centre of that triangle and Elmira is close enough that we can service it well out here.”

William Knell founded the company in 1906 to supply hardware, plumbing and heating supplies to the area. With the recession of the 1990s, Knell’s found itself squeezed out of the wholesale hardware sector by the growth of big box stores like Home Hardware and Rona. The Elmira location opened in the late 1990s as Knell’s refocused on door installation and design and distribution of industrial supply products to manufacturers and contractors.

Dippell explained that while the store gets some customers off the street, the bulk of Knell’s business is commercial. With those customers now accessible by phone, fax, e-mail and courier, the Elmira distribution point became less essential than it was in the past.

“When we consolidated all our Kitchener locations, we fixed a lot of distribution problems that we’d had. … I think it’s unfortunate that the branch had to be closed, but I believe that we can better service our customers from this facility.”

Elmira BIA chair Krista McBay lamented the loss of another business downtown and expressed hope that the owners will find a new tenant quickly.

Prior to Knell’s arrival in Elmira, that location had been home to a Canadian Tire store.

“I hope they find something soon and I hope it’s a merchant. We can’t have another professional business downtown. We need as much traffic in the downtown merchant-wise as we can muster, something to pull more people downtown.”

McBay would like to see the township doing more to attract businesses to Elmira’s core, perhaps some sort of tax rebate.

“I don’t see them offering anything like that. The taxes just keep going up; they don’t seem to be focused on downtown,” she said. “Right now there are so many roadblocks to new businesses moving in.”

The store closed Monday, but Knell’s won’t be fully moved out of Elmira until mid-March.

The Knell’s building in Elmira is owned by the great-grandson of Knell’s founder William Knell. The company will be looking for a new tenant in the near future, Dippell said, but there are no plans in place yet.

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