Saturday, November 3, 2012

843 Main Street - Former Kern Hill Furniture

(Source: Google Street View)

Former Kern-Hill Furniture Co-op Store
843 Main Street
Opened: 1945 (expanded 1951)
Architect: Unknown

This building opened in 1945 as home to North End Furniture Company (NEFCO.) That company's roots dated back to a used furniture business created in 1932 by Chaim Adelman but this was their first new furniture store. The building was renovated and expanded in 1951.

In 1961 NEFCO built a new flagship store on Portage Avenue and kept this location as one of their economy stores until 1963. NEFCO went on to become Penthouse Furniture.

April 1957

In April 1963 it become home to another furniture institution: Kern Hill Furniture.

Kern Hill's roots date back to around 1952 when John Kiernecki opened Manitoba Television Sales and Service out of his former convenience store at 59 Derby Street at Dufferin (now demolished.) Soon after, his friend and pro-hockey player Nick Hill joined him as a partner. In 1957 the store was renamed Kern-Hill Furniture and Appliances.

In 1960 Kiernicki left Winnipeg to run the Towers Hotel in Dauphin. Hill took over the business and relocated it to 950 Main Street (now demolished) before settling at 843 Main Street in April 1963.

July 1966

In 1962 Hill registered the business as a co-operative with the federal Department of Agriculture and the store began advertising itself as Kern-Hill Furniture Co-op in January 1963. By 1969 it had almost 3000 shareholder-customers.

After selling his hotel, Kiernicki returned to Winnipeg and in 1966 and became sales manager at Kern Hill. He died the following year at the age of 43.

Nick Hill died in 2003 and his sons took over the business. In 2005 they wanted to expand and chose a new location at 600 Nairn Avenue.

 843 Main Street renos

In 2007 the building became home to Surplus Direct, a liquidator that sells a variety of items, including furniture, of course ! In 2012 the building underwent an exterior renovations.

More on Nick Hill:

Hill in 1947 and 1950

Nick Hill was well known around town as a sportsman before he became a businessman.

As a teenager his name regularly appeared in the newspapers as both a football and hockey player. In 1948 he joined the Port Arthur Bruins junior hockey team, then brifely the Winnipeg Black Hawks. His pro career included stints with the Sydney Millionaires and Milwaukee Chiefs. 

He began working with his friend John Kiernicki at his TV shop in the off-season and in one newspaper story said that he realized that he could make much more in the off season that he ever would as a hockey player. Though he gave up pro-hockey in 1954 he continued to play old-timer hockey and coach through to the 1970s.

Hill he became the public face of Kern-Hill Furniture by doing something that he saw in larger U.S. markets during his hockey days: buying blocks of time on local TV stations and and producing his own ads. His low budget commercials featuring the catch line “C’mon Down” are remembered by a couple of generations of Winnipeggers.

A 1979 Free Press article Nick Hill said that his life's motto was "play hard, skate fast and don't tear your sweater."

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