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Our lifelong careers with icon, Canadian Tire

CanadianTireOriginal5_LR11By Patrick and Karen Higgins
We have both spent our entire careers with Canadian Tire. You might say it’s in our blood. We used to move from location to location every couple of years, until we bought a store in Uxbridge, Ont., 16 years ago. We’ve been there ever since and the business has really grown with the community around it.

I was born and raised in Gananoque, Ont., in the Thousand Islands region. It was similar to Uxbridge, in terms of population and proximity to larger markets; Uxbridge is near Toronto, while Gananoque is near Kingston. So, I was very familiar with this type of market before running a Canadian Tire store in it.

I was the fourth of five children. Funnily enough, my older brother is a Canadian Tire dealer today on the west coast and my younger sister also used to work for the company.

As a child, I loved playing hockey, both on the ice in the winter and on the road for the rest of the year. I was also into fishing. We spent a lot of time in our local Canadian Tire store and the brand became iconic for us.

During my high school years, I worked as a short-order cook at a roadside restaurant. It got me thinking I might want to become a chef one day. So, I moved to Toronto at 18 and worked at Inn on the Park, a (now defunct) luxury hotel that had 70 chefs on staff. I was one of just a handful of apprentice cooks. I only lasted there for six months, though. I realized I wanted to be out where the customers were, as I’m a very sociable person.

Also, when I was growing up, I had very entrepreneurial instincts. I knew I would want to own a business someday.

I was born in Scarborough, Ont., which later became part of Toronto. Growing up in suburbia, I was a city girl and always hoped to be a teacher when I grew up.

In my last semester of high school, however, I took a co-op program job placement at Canadian Tire’s petroleum division. It was a secretarial position for the finance manager. They offered me a full-time job at the end of the school placement and I never looked back. It was a great place to work and I was soon transferred to the personnel department to serve in an administrative capacity.

Since the petroleum division was just a small part of the corporation, there was a really social, family-like feel to working there. This is also where Pat and I met, since he was working in the same division of Canadian Tire at the time.

One day in 1976, as I walked up Toronto’s Yonge Street, I came across a Canadian Tire store at Davenport Road, which is still there today. I applied and got a job at their gas station.

Within three months, I moved up from gas jockey to station supervisor. At the time, Canadian Tire’s petroleum division’s offices were right across the street from that store, so I was able to continue to work my way up in a variety of positions. I became a retail administrator and had to wear a pager, as I was responsible for updating gas prices at all of the sites.

Next, I became a district manager, covering an Eastern Ontario region stretching from Whitby to Cornwall to the Ottawa Valley. I was still based in Toronto, but I was on the road a lot.

Eventually, I moved to Ottawa to run that region for three years. One day, when I was getting my annual performance appraisal, my boss talked about dealership opportunities. I began to set my mind on becoming a dealer myself. It would be a much bigger responsibility, but it was appealing because it was in my comfort zone—I already knew a lot about Canadian Tire and how it worked.

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