Elmira has welcomed Canadian Tire back into the community more than two decades after it left the downtown location in 1994 that for many years afterward was home to Knell’s hardware.

It’s also been the better part of a decade since plans for a Canadian Tire store at that location were first discussed.

The new store next to Foodland on Arthur Street opened last week, one week ahead of schedule. They’ll have an official grand opening in early May, but all of  the departments are open now, including automotive.

Dealer/owner Shaun Gallagher has worked for Canadian Tire for 16 years. He and his family moved here from Vancouver to run this store.

“The community’s very happy to have a Canadian Tire back in town. They’re quite happy with the size of the store and the offering. The feedback we’re hearing is something along the lines of it’s much bigger than they thought it was, but it’s just the right size for Elmira and it doesn’t feel too overwhelming. They’re happy with the wide shopping aisles and they can see everything that they’re looking for,” Gallagher said.

There are lots of familiar faces in the new Elmira Canadian Tire store including auto technician Morley, Peter in hardware, Michelle in paint, and Claudette in sports. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

They’ve hired approximately 50 people, and you’re likely to see more than a few familiar faces, as many of the employees are local. He says they’re still in the process of hiring a few more employees for the store.

Gallagher notes the goal was to hire local people, but they were also just looking for the right kind of people, which they were lucky to find in Woolwich.

“Our staff that work here, they’re incredible people, they truly care about the store, it’s a part of them now. They’re really proud of where they’re at and I think that reflects in the offering we’ve put together for the customer.”

They will have a garden centre in the summer, though the size has yet to be determined.

In just the first week, he says they’ve seen lots of families looking at the bicycle selection – highlighted by several children trying them out on Monday afternoon while touring the building.

Jenn and Ben were on hand in their automotive department on Monday, which is now open for business. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

“It’s a great opportunity for Canadian Tire to better serve a growing community and bring a store that’s within this area. It makes the community not have to travel into Waterloo or surrounding areas,” Gallagher said.

The store covers some 34,000 square feet and is classified as one of Canadian Tire’s new small store formats. The main difference is while a large Canadian Tire would have four shelves of an item on display, the smaller store might only have one. He assures customers they’ll carry everything in the flyer, plus the usual items in hardware, paint, sports equipment, outdoor goods, tools, and kitchenware.

And it may well be the first Canadian Tire with a barn for customers to tie up their horses and buggies.

“I think we have an offering for everybody around. Whether you’re an avid outdoors person or you have automotive needs or you have household needs or lawn and garden needs, the offering we have at our store should meet and exceed everybody’s expectations.”