80s, 90s, Quick Lists — April 9, 2014 3:29 pm

6 Defunct Canadian Stores with Unusual Names

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Canada is no different from many other countries in that we have our fair share of now closed but once beloved store chains. It’s just that Canada has some pretty strange names for those chains.

6 – Beaver Lumber

Beaver_Lumber_LogoThat’s one happy beaver looking for wood. Wait…

Only in Canada would you find a building supply chain that was not only named Beaver Lumber, but was also owned by the beer company Molson. Beaver Lumber entered the scene in 1906 and exited in 2000 after it was purchased by Home Hardware. If you’re a Canadian child of the 70s or 80s, you probably have fond memories of going to Beaver Lumber to pick out materials for a club house like I do.

5 – Big V

big-v-logoThe V stands for Value, you dirty birds.

The company was formed by seven area pharmacists in 1964 and quickly expanded to a large empire, so large that Shoppers Drug Mart purchased Big V in 1995, converting their 135 stores into Shoppers across the land. Big V had more of a gift shop/drug store feel than Shopper’s grocery store/drug store concept, and even had a carpeted area with glass collectables. Big V’s mascot was a Crusader, because they were serious about drug stores. Like… freaky serious. I recall a possible mascot change in the early to mid 1990s—I coveted a stuffed Floyd doll that appeared in their ads. He was yellow and kind of reminded me of those Kodak mascots. Anyway, I eventually bought him, have no idea where he is, and can’t find anything online about it. Was it all just a dream?


Most Canadians of this certain age will remember having a ton of Big V colored pencils. In fact, I have a few surviving ones. I’m assuming I colored exclusively in blues, greens, and purples judging from these leftovers. There was also a big yearly coloring contest. I never won, but a friend of mine did and she won a crap ton of stuffed animals. I was jealous.

4 – Bargain Harold’s

Not to be confused with Harry, the guy with a snake on his face. SCTV Bonus Points!

Canada is a friendly country. We don’t have big box stores (sarcasm?), we have our pal Harold setting up shop at the corner to make sure everyone gets affordable Stove Top stuffing for Christmas. Bargain Harold’s went bankrupt in 1991 and became The Bargain! Shop. We were really excited about bargains, clearly.

3 – BiWay


Which begs the question… who didn’t survive the BiWay Grand Opening?

In the 80s and 90s, if you were in middle school, it was not cool to shop at BiWay. One of the worst things you could be called was a “BiWay Shopper”, because that meant you were poor and couldn’t afford the highclass offerings of Kmart. Either way, I totally shopped at BiWay and would have continued to do so if it didn’t kick the bucket in 2001 and end up largely as Dollaramas (which I also shop at).

2 – Woolco


You may remember Woolco. Or Wooloworth. Or other Wool-related corporations. No?

Perhaps this is cheating, but hear me out. Woolco actually originated in Ohio in 1962 as part of the F.W. Woolworth Company. It made its way to Canada and stayed open here until 1994, while it closed its doors in the U.S. in 1982 and the U.K. in 1986. So basically the U.S. 1982 is the equivalent to the Canadian 1994. That’s the metric system for you. It’s name, though? It wasn’t a wool factory, which some of you hooligans may assume. It was a run-of-the-mill department store. So what happened in 1994? We finally got synth music and Wal-Mart purchased Woolco in Canada, turning them into those big box stores we hate to hate.

1 – Sam the Record Man

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACanadians out in the wild, purchasing music.

Like our close personal friend Harold, Sam wanted to give us good discounts on music and earned himself the reputation of a Record Man back when the chain opened in 1982. Because music downloaders like YOU ruined the music industry (where’s that sarcasm font?) Sam closed his doors in 2001, but its flagship store in Toronto was open until 2007. Sam the Record Man’s store front was a staple of the Toronto scene—its large neon record signage illuminated the city. I remember staying in a hotel in downtown Toronto in the mid-1990s and being completely in awe of this beacon. The Sam the Record Man in my smaller city was located inside a mall and lacked that kind of presentation.

Honorable Mention: The Future Shop

futureconan001The Future Shop, Conan?

The Future Shop is only an honorable mention here because it’s still in business, although it was bought by Best Buy in 2001. What can you buy there? The future… if the future means Blu-Rays, video games, computers, and everything else that Best Buy carries.

Have you shopped at any of these store? Know of a defunct store with a stranger name? Leave us a comment!


  • You can add The Future Shop as a permanent addition to this list now too.

  • In the 90’s I used to live like 5 minutes away from a mall that had #1, 2, & 3 on this list. The McDonalds sold Pizzas, the Pepsi was clear… what a time to be alive!

    Oh, and my Grandfather tells a story about me dropping a deuce in a Beaver Lumber display toilet when I was little.

    ….I probably should have led with that story.

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