By Jonathon Brodie/London Community News / Twitter: @jonathonbrodie
To say the closing of Novack’s retail store, on King Street, is unexpected might be an understatement.
While the store would usually be open throughout the week for customers to browse through travel books and purchase camping gear and outdoor wear, shoppers found themselves perplexed as to why the door wouldn't open when they tried to get in the store on Monday (Nov. 19).
In the space of a few minutes, one person comes to shop but is denied, followed by another, then another and another.
Usually the storefront windows of Novack’s are decorated with the latest winter jackets, but now they covered big signs reading, “Store closing forever.”
“It’s kind of sad I guess seeing something that’s been here forever like this just go down,” said Heather Campbell, hoping to get a jump start on the crowd for the store’s liquidation sale and needing to see the signs to believe it.
Although the store is closing, Novack’s owners, Paul and Sandi Caplan, will still be using the building.
Like the shop has so many times in its 73 year history, it’s evolving more than it is closing. People can still come to King Street and check out the city landscape through the Russian submarine periscope on the top floor, Paul told London Community News.
Opening in 1939 as a music luggage shop, Novack’s has changed from an army surplus store to the outdoor outfitter it evolved into before this latest transition.
The downtown depot is going to be taken over by the company’s uniform division with the travel tour side of the Novack’s business sticking around as well.
“We run three complex businesses. We have the retail business, we have the uniform business, which is actually growing dramatically, and we have the adventure-travel business,” Paul said, refusing to reveal his age. “I’m an old guy, how many businesses can I run? I only have so much energy.”
Novack’s retail has been a mainstay in London for decades and has become stagnate over the years, Paul explained, while the uniform side, which has been around for 15 years, continues to gain momentum.
As locals come into the store to buy everything from winter jackets to plastic ponchos, Novack’s is shipping out uniforms for police, firefighters and security corporations in Ontario to even a mining company in Africa.
“As the uniform business is growing it’s taking more and more of my time and I only have so much time,” Paul said, inheriting the company from his father-in-law. “I like doing what I’m doing, but I also know I want to enjoy life at the same time.”
The retail store will open again on Thursday (Nov. 22) with sale stickers on every item. “Up to 73% off,” reads multiple signs in the windows, as more more people gather outside trying to get inside.
“It’s not a lack of business, it’s simply energy,” Paul said.
The final closing of the retail aspect of the shop is expected in December when items have been liquidated.
What will the 211 King St. be after a uniform store? Not even Paul knows.
“Prediction implies magic, forecasting is empirical,” he quotes a line from a book he’s currently reading called the Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver. “I can’t forecast today six years from now or four years from now; I could forecast what it will be six months to a year from now, but prediction, that’s magic. I couldn’t tell you what it’s going to be.”
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