After 44 years with Canadian Tire, Malcolm Jenkins will officially retire from the business next week.
Jenkins, who is more well known for his philanthropy in Prince Albert, had a Farewell Party at the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation on Sunday, Oct. 1 courtesy of employees at Canadian Tire. He officially retires on Thursday, Oct. 12.
“It’s been a great ride (and) 44 years is just wonderful,” Jenkins said in an interview with the Herald.
“They say that if you if you find a job you love, you never work a day in your life and that’s been true for me because I had a number of jobs before Canadian Tire. I enjoyed them too, but they were brief.”
At the retirement celebration, he made a speech and reiterated his most famous anecdote about coming to Prince Albert and getting used to running the business, which became the birth of his philanthropy.
“I said, ‘What do you do for a break on the weekend or whatever?’ They said, ‘Well, you can go to Melfort and swim in the pool.’ That’s my signature line,” Jenkins said.
“I didn’t know what Melfort was. I thought it was some cream cake from England. I found out it was this little town just down the road, but I found out they had a swimming pool, a really nice one. They were ahead of their time and we didn’t have anything,” he added.
Afterwards, Jenkins said the business began to base advertising in print and on radio with the slogan ‘When you shop at Canadian Tire you are Building Prince Albert.’ He also began helping with smaller projects, and became more involved in the community by forming the Broadway North Theatre Company at the old Powerhouse Theatre.
“We did shows in churches and schools and Broadway North is 27 years old now. And we used to get 6,000 people come to a show in a church and 4,000 would come to a summer show. It’s wonderful,” he said.
The growth of the Broadway North led to Jenkins becoming an advocate for the construction of the EA Rawlinson Centre.
“Everyone came in because now they knew what theatre was. It’s not just Hockeytown North anymore,” Jenkins said.
“We raised money using the trust people have in the triangle. People knew that when they came to Canadians Tire they would get a good deal, and would have great staff and we would back, everything we sold. It wasn’t my idea. It wasn’t, ‘Malcolm thinks this is a cool thing to do.’ It was, ‘Canadian Tire thinks this is a cool thing to do,’” Jenkins said.
The Rawlinson was built through fundraising, with three cents on the dollar coming from the community. The rest coming from other levels of government.
Jenkins said the E.A. Rawlinson fundraising campaign built trust in the community, and acted as a springboard for other projects.
“It’s three great things: trust in Canadian Tire, our loyal customers and my staff.” Jenkins said.
Projects that Jenkins has been a part of include the Rawlinson Centre, the Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse, Melba’s Room in the Herb Bassett Home, Hope’s Home, the Rose Garden Hospice and many playgrounds including the Rotary Adventure Park, which recently opened.
Although he donated many of the funds, Jenkins is adamant that Prince Albert residents who shopped at Canadian Tire deserve some credit.
“When you go around Prince Albert (and) you see any of these lovely places remember you helped build them,” Jenkins said.
“I have still got some (money). I try to give it away faster than make it because I reached this point in life (where it’s) what the hell are you going to do? You can’t take it with you,” he added.
“I would sooner have a few bucks than have none, that’s for sure, and I would sooner share it.”
Jenkins also became the face and the voice of Canadian Tire’s advertising in Prince Albert.
While at the previous stop when he owned a Canadian Tire in Thompson, Man., Jenkins noted that ads all sounded the same. He became the voice of the ads in Prince Albert.
“I was the face of the store and that was very deliberate, because I have such a great face, I feel,” he joked.
“I wanted to do something that stood out, cut through the clutter, so I just heavied up my English accent, which I had gotten at birth,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins’ life took an unexpected turn while he was deciding whether to move from Thompson to Prince Albert.
He made the five-six hour trip to Prince Albert with his wife to have a look around, then drove back home. He accepted the store over the phone, and got home at 1 a.m., exhausted from the trip.
The phone rang two hours later. It was an RCMP officer telling him the store in Thompson was on fire.
He said they stuck it out in Thompson because nothing else became available that was as interesting as Prince Albert.
“This was a good opportunity,” Jenkins said. “I came here, but I had to stay three months and rebuild the store. It was entirely destroyed by smoke damage and some tires burned inside based on vandalism outside, which blew some blow some sparks into the building.
“It was a diversion for a robbery. They lit three dumpsters on fire so they could rob the Co-op of their safe. They got $2,800 and they cost me $5 million, so that’s not a good memory, but we got the hell out of there.”
When he came to Prince Albert Jenkins brought three employees with him including Lyle Banting, the general manager and his wife Claire Banting. Like Jenkins, they are also winding down their careers.
“Lyle was with me 42 years and she was with me 38 year,” Jenkins said. “Lovely people. They’re finally retiring and God bless them.”
The Canadian Tire has one employee that has worked there for 48 years and others who have worked over 30 years.
He had an arrangement with Banting where they would give each other one year’ notice if they plan to retire. Jenkins said that Banting is having some issues with his knees, which happens when you are on your feet all day.
“I said, ‘(it’s a) good time to hang up the skates and that was it,’” he said.
When asked by he decided to retire, Jenkins said one of the biggest reasons was change. When he started, Jenkins said, Prince Albert still had a country town feel. Unfortunately, he said, that’s not the case anymore.
When asked why he decided to retire, Jenkins cited change as one reason.
“When I started, it was still a country town,” he said. “When I came here I’d look out of my office on a Saturday and I’d see four guys, maybe farmers standing, talking in the store, in the tool aisle or something. I go and do something. I look out the window another half an hour later and they’re still standing there talking.
“But now, it’s a little different world because you got to have security. It’s ‘is somebody going to come in and do something crazy,’ so you get all the different atmosphere. I’m comfortable leaving it because it’s different. It hasn’t improved.”
Despite the challenges, Jenkins said he loved working at Canadian Tire. He also loved the city of Prince Albert and supporting the city.
“People are great in Prince Albert,” he said. “It’s wonderful. They all come to the pump. It’s just all hands to the pump. All you have to do is have a vision and point out something that’s really quite often glaringly apparent.”
When the Rotary Adventure Park opened, Jenkins was asked what his motivation was. He told the person who asked the question to look around at the children enjoying themselves.
“I said, ‘well, I’m an atheist, so I’m not trying to buy my way to heaven.’ He had three kids laughing and playing with him. I said, ‘seeing those kids have a good time, that’s pretty good reward’ and that’s good enough for me.”
Jenkins said he started to take a different route home each day to drive by each of the parks or other things he has contributed to just see what is happening.
“That one across the river is incredible. We went by there Saturday night at 6:45 it’s getting dark,” Jenkins said.
“The car park was full and kids roaring and ripping around. It’s just wonderful, it’s so good, and that keeps them from being down in the basement playing Nintendo and getting diabetes,” Jenkins said.
Family is also a reason for Jenkins’ retirement. He became a great-grandfather two weeks ago. His great-granddaughter is premature and is in the ICU in Vancouver.
“She’s going to be there for another three or four weeks,” Jenkins said. “She’s four pound, four ounces and she’s got some battles to fight.”
On Oct. 12, he plans to clear out the furniture from his office. His collection from his office is already at his home. His office was cluttered with things he had collected over the years.
“I bring it home here. I can stick it on the ceiling I guess, but I brought it all home. It’s all going to be boxes at the back and I’ve got the rest of my life to sort through it and donate teddy bears and a complete fireman’s helmet I gave to a little girl last week,” Jenkins said.
He said that he hopes to have a long time to clear our all of the many things he has collected.
“My dad made 90 and I’m 80,” Jenkins said. “He made 90 despite all his health issues with his heart and everything, worked hard all his life, physical labor. That’s why I do pilates. I think if I do some exercises, maybe it’ll keep me a little bit longer, but I can go any time, right?”