It wasn’t the kind of pre-holiday busy stretch in St. Jacobs anybody at Home Hardware wanted to see. The village was filled Wednesday and Thursday with family, friends and a long list of people whose lives were touched by Walter Hachborn, the Home Hardware co-founder who died Dec. 17 at the age of 95.
After a visitation Wednesday at Home Hardware’s Henry Street main office, two funeral services are slated for Thursday morning at 11 a.m.: a semi-private ceremony at St. James Lutheran Church in St. Jacobs, and a live feed for dealers, staff, business partners and the public in the Henry Sittler Building at Home Hardware.
Hachborn is to be laid to rest at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Cemetery in Conestogo, the village where he was born in 1921.
Always modest about his accomplishments, the bespectacled Hachborn, usually sporting a bowtie, became the face of Home Hardware, which he and his partners transformed from a single store in St. Jacobs into a national brand with some 1,100 locations from coast to coast.
A member of the Order of Canada, inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame, a recipient of the Distinguished Canadian Retailer Award and an honourary doctor of laws, Hachborn remained humble about all the recognition.
He began his career in the hardware business as a teen in 1938, so he had more than a quarter-century of experience under his belt when he created Home Hardware in 1964 with partners Henry Sittler and Arthur Zilliax.
Prior to becoming the first Home Hardware store, the St. Jacobs location was known as Hollinger Hardware. Gordon Hollinger bought the store from the Gilles family in 1934. The previous owner, Henry Gilles, originally purchased the store in 1893 and converted it from a tinsmith’s shop to a blacksmith’s and hardware store. Home Hardware’s King Street furniture store still occupies the same location today.
During the 1930s, Hollinger and his manager, Henry Sittler, also started up a wholesale business. Some years later, a schoolboy by the name of Walter Hachborn was hired to clean the store. When Hollinger died in 1950 Sittler, Hachborn and silent partner Arthur Zilliax eventually bought the business. The true impetus for Home Hardware’s growth emerged during the 1960s when small hardware companies were struggling against the big department stores.
It was during this uncertain climate, that Home Hardware developed its vision of a system to help keep independent hardware merchants in business – a goal that has continued to focus the development of the company today.
Hachborn’s passing has been tough on the many longtime Home Hardware employees who knew him, said company spokesperson Jessica Kuepfer.
“Walter always said that we are not in the hardware business, we are in the people business. He was a true reflection of this as he always took the time to learn everyone’s name and made sure he never forgot it. Walter will be deeply missed.”