SURREY — The smell of smoke still fills the air in the back warehouse area of The Hockey Shop, the Whalley retail store hit by fire seven weeks ago.
The leased space is being renovated for a return to business six or eight months down the road, and in the meantime a temporary location has been found: the former Best Buy store at King George Boulevard and Old Yale Road.
The hockey equipment retailer will set up shop there starting Friday (Nov. 10), with a plan to have doors open to the public in a couple of weeks.
“Our goal for that is by Black Friday (Nov. 24),” said Brad Whiddington, who co-manages the store with Chad Purdy.
On Sept. 23, it was a bleak Saturday when management and staff had to deal with fallout from a fire that started at the back end of the store, on City Parkway.
As smoke poured from the building, the nearby Surrey Central SkyTrain station was closed for a few hours, and hockey games and other activities were cancelled at North Surrey Recreation Centre.
A warehouse area stocked with skates and helmets was destroyed, but other sections of the shop weren’t as badly damaged by fire, smoke and water.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Whiddington told the Now-Leader.
“We don’t know what started it but it’s with the police at this stage,” he added.
“We know that it seemed like a pretty difficult one for (the fire department) to fight, with the amount of inventory in this area of the building. There were other items here, accessories and stuff and some Christmas decorations and files, three or four thousand pucks that we kept here.”
The three-level store, once home to music retailer A&B Sound, was opened in 2011, after moving from a location across the street.
“I remember in April of that year we had (Canucks goalie Roberto) Luongo in for a signing, about three weeks after we’d opened, and that was the year they went on their Cup run,” Whiddington recalled.
Since 1988, the family-owned shop has been a go-to retailer for hockey players and parents around the Lower Mainland.
“It’s been amazing, all the support and comments that have come in (since the fire),” Whiddington said. “Almost daily I have people reaching out by text messages and emails, phone calls, asking how it’s going, how they can help, when are we going to open again, we miss the store, that kind of thing.”
Whiddington manages the store’s team sales department, which deals in jackets, jerseys, socks and other items, and the fire hit just as local teams were looking to order apparel for the coming hockey season.
“Some of the stuff was delivered from here on the Friday, but South Delta Minor hockey, all their rep team jerseys and socks were decorated and waiting in our back warehouse for delivery there that Saturday morning,” Whiddington recalled. “We were going to do all their apparel fittings and drop off all their socks and practice jerseys, helmet decals – all that was gone, it was right in the fire, so that all had to be redone.
“We’re fortunate,” he continued, “because our decorator, the company we use for all our embroidery, screen printing and sewing numbers and names on jerseys, Sew Kool in Newton, they welcomed us into their building and basically made an office for our staff to work out of. So since the Monday after the fire we’ve had four staff there. That’s been great, and we’ve worked very closely with them over the years as a go-to place for all that decoration work. I can’t thank them enough for allowing us to continue to operate over the past few weeks.”
Elsewhere on the local hockey retail scene, the Cyclone Taylor store in Surrey has moved south across Highway 10, to #106-5433 152nd St., as of Nov. 1. “The new location (is) bigger and better – we are excited to be in a new space and can’t wait to see you!” management says in a post on the store’s website.
The Hockey Shop’s temporary space in the former Best Buy store is about 26,000 square feet on one level – significantly larger than the fire-damaged store’s 17,500 square feet.
“The one downside has been, Spirit Halloween was in there and had a lease that expires today (Thursday), so we had to wait until tomorrow to get there,” Whiddington said. “We have the containers lined up with all our fixtures and everything’s getting delivered starting tomorrow, so we’ll be working through the weekend on all that, getting the store set up.
“We’ll be having a sale – a fire sale, for sure,” he added.
They’re secured nine months at the temporary site.
“We’re aiming to be definitely be back here for the start of the next hockey season,” Whiddington added.
Down the road, business at the City Parkway site will be in question.
“This location, there’s so much development in the area and we’ve been here through a lot of change,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s realistic that we’ll be here in 10 years, just with all the highrises coming in, and this building probably isn’t the best use of space in this neighbourhood 10 years from now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this building gone by then. We’ve got just over three years and we have options in place beyond that. We’ll see how it goes.”