By Mike Baker
Dale and Jerry Walker have made some tremendous memories through their years owning and operating Haliburton’s Home Hardware.
Purchasing the business back in 2014, the Walkers have spent the past seven years serving the community’s every need from a home improvement standpoint. There have been many highlights for the couple over that time, not least the move into a brand-new facility in 2019. And while they have loved every second of their ownership, the pair announced last week that they have sold their stake in the store as they prepare for retirement.
“It’s actually a second retirement,” Dale reiterated.
The long-time Haliburtonians have been staples in the Highlands for decades. Before purchasing Home Hardware, Dale spent 18 years as the executive director of the Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation, while Jerry ran Walker’s Heating and Cooling.
“Shortly after [we had both retired], Jerry came home one day and told me he was going to buy the Home Hardware store downtown. So I said ‘you want to buy a hardware store? OK’,” Dale said.
“It was a dream come true for me,” Jerry told the Echo. “Through my business I spent a lot of time in hardware stores. I’ve always loved hardware stores, and I knew that Haliburton had a place for a good hardware store. So we took it over from the previous owner and got right to work learning the business.”
It didn’t take long for the pair to realize that the operation had outgrown its previous facility on Highland Street. They each made numerous jokes about “the basement” at their old rented building, which served multiple purposes.
“It was our storage area, it was a lunch room for staff. There was always so much going on down there,” Jerry recalled with a smile. “There was always someone hauling products up and down. We still talk about ‘the basement’ today. It definitely draws some smiles [from staff] who remember it.”
Plans for a state-of-the-art 16,000 sq. ft. building got underway in 2017. The building opened in 2019, and will serve as the Walkers’ legacy long into the future. It was always their plan, Jerry said, to transition the business into a more sustainable, long-term home before selling.
They took their time looking for not only the right deal, but the right buyer. Although the Walkers had multiple offers on the table, they decided to sell their business to Dan Moulton, who owns seven other Home Hardware stores across Ontario, including the one in Minden.
They felt it was important that the business be taken over by someone who understands how things work in the Highlands.
“That was very important to us, making sure we found someone with ties to the area, who understands the needs of the community. Dan and his wife Emily, we’ve known them for six or seven years now, and they are good business people. We’re pleased that they’ll be taking over, and continuing the Home Hardware legacy in Haliburton,” Dale said.
The pair spent considerable time reminiscing about some of their favourite memories over the years, all of which had one thing in common – the community.
“The community has just been tremendous, they embraced us from the moment we purchased the business,” Dale remembers. “We were extremely fortunate in that we had extremely good staff, but also a community that supported us.”
“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without our community, I think that goes without saying,” Jerry added. “The support we’ve seen, that’s really meant a lot to me. Dale and I have always been big believers in supporting and being involved in the community you live in. I’ve been a Rotarian for over 30 years, and collectively, between [Walker’s Heating and Cooling and Home Hardware], we’ve probably donated over $500,000 to the community, supporting different causes and events. We’ve only been able to do that because of how much support we’ve had over the years.”
Dale added, “We owe a big, big thank you to the community.”
Opening day of the new store in 2019 was particularly special, the Walkers said. They sold tickets to members of the public, and held a day-long party, where people could stop by for food, drinks and the chance to win a prize. Once all was said and done, the event raised $7,000, which was donated to the local hospital foundation.
Selling the business after spending so many years building it into what it is today is bittersweet, Dale admitted. The Walkers will hand over the keys to the new owners on May 31.
They plan to remain in the Highlands. Jerry is already working on plans for the couple’s dream retirement home. Dale will be keeping busy through various volunteer commitments, including with the new Haliburton County Huskies Jr. A hockey team.
“We’re excited for this next chapter. We love this community, so we’re not going anywhere. It’s just time to take a step back,” Dale concluded.