Lifelong legacy

Fred Matheson accepts the lifetime membership award from Chamber of Commerce Chair Meghan Mayer and CEO Larry Fladager (far right), as well as Police Chief Troy Cooper (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald).

A lot has changed in 88 years.

In 1929, 88 years ago, Britain restored diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. Black Thursday and the Wall Street Crash marked the beginning of the great depression, and Nova Scotia repealed laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol.

But, 88 years later, one Prince Albert business remains strong. Ted Matheson’s Men’s Wear has been operating in downtown P.A. since 1929.

Three generations later, the store still bears the family name, and it’s still run by the Matheson family. On October 12, 2017, Fred Matheson earned one of the chamber of commerce’s top honours by being awarded a lifetime membership for his contributions to the Prince Albert business community, and the city at large.

Fred Matheson (the younger – his uncle also worked at the store for several years) joined the family business in 1986 after finishing university. He joined the chamber of commerce board of directors, a position he held for five years. He has remained an active member of the chamber.

Under his leadership, the store received an ABEX award in the community cornerstone category, recognizing small businesses with deep roots and longstanding support for the local community.

“Fred Matheson and that company’s legacy in Prince Albert is second to none,” said chamber of commerce CEO Larry Fladager. “We’re really proud of the fact that we’re able to honour that family’s legacy by giving a lifetime membership award to the third generation.”

By accepting the lifetime membership award Thursday night, Matheson became the first person to receive the honour since Barry Dutchak and Jim Scarrow were named lifetime members in 2014. Other lifetime members include Art Hauser, E.A. Rawlinson, Fred’s father Jack Matheson and the Prince Albert Daily Herald.

“I am truly very honoured to be a recipient of this lifetime membership,” Fred Matheson said Thursday night. “I’m very proud that my family has been part of this business community for three generations. I believe a chamber of commerce is really important for a strong and vibrant community. It is the voice of business. We need to leverage ourselves in the business community to be successful and profitable.

Fred Matheson speaks after receiving lifetime membership to the Chamber of Commerce on October 12, 2017 (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Matheson took little credit himself, instead praising his family and employees who have helped the business stick around for so long.

“I believe in surrounding oneself with good people. I am successful because I have hardworking people around me,” Matheson said.

“When business is successful, the entire community wins. I believe in getting involved in your community. In order to serve your customer, you need to know who your customer is. What better way to get to know your customer than getting involved in the community?”

Matheson told the Daily Herald he had prepared a few different speeches. In one, he said, he had achieved everything he had ever set out to do in his working career and adult life, but never imagined he would ever be rewarded with a life membership.

“When you see the list of different people who were life members, you’ve got to be happy about that,” he said.

Matheson said the business has taught him a lot, about adapting to change, and about learning from others.

“I look to other retailers in and around the province, and in eastern and western Canada,” he said.

“I’ve learned from them. The biggest thing I’ve learned is I have a lot to learn. I’ve been at it for 31 years, but I’m always learning.”

It’s not just about learning what makes businesses successful, Matheson said. It’s also about learning from other businesses’ mistakes, and learning from those who have failed.

It’s a message Matheson would like to pass along to the next generation of entrepreneurs just entering the market.

“I’m lucky because my staff is younger and they’re teaching me things, but for a young person, they still have to have a mentor, someone they can talk to,” he said.

“The chamber is important because there are channels the chamber has that will allow them to find mentors. I really believe that mentorship sis good, as is getting out there and talking to other business people.”

Entrepreneurship is not dead, Matheson stressed. But it’s important on businesspeople, old and young, to support each other.

“Those of us at the end of our career have to help those business people get going,” he said, adding that it’s important for young people to “reach out, get their feet wet and learn.

“Entrepreneurship is alive and well.”