Historic Businesses of Powassan
Powassan's business district houses some historic buildings and businesses which have lasted for over half of a century. Although many businesses have come and gone, their contributions and impact on the town of Powassan will always be remembered in history. Additionally, there are still many businesses which have been passed down through family lines and that still operate today. To read the history of a specific location, please click on the links below or scroll to find it:
B. Giesler & Sons Boatworks
Born in 1887, Barney Giesler was a World War I Veteran, a blacksmith, a mechanic, and an avid fisherman. He is remembered in the town of Powassan for fostering one of the oldest, and most nationally successful businesses in its field, B. Giesler & Sons Boatworks (known to many as Giesler Boats).
After returning from WWI, Barney had hoped to open his own mechanics shop but there were already too many shops in Powassan, so he resorted to blacksmithing instead.
As an avid fisherman, Barney was in need of a boat of his own so he decided to build himself a cedar skiff in 1921. His boat caught the attention of a man named Ross Stinson who offered to trade him more supplies in exchange for the boat he had built.
In the late 1920s, Barney slowly started transitioning from blacksmithing to full-time boat building. In the 1930s, tourism started boosting in the north with the birth of the Dionne Quintuplets and this helped grow Barney's business even further.
In the 1940s, Barney's sons - Joe, Pete, Carl, and Willie - all joined the business one-by-one leading to the official name B. Giesler & Sons.
Barney passed away in 1951, but his family and friends kept the business running strong, with approximately 500 handmade boats being produced per year. That is an average of 1and a third boats per day.
In the 1960s, there was a decline in the popularity of cedar-strip canoes as aluminum and fiberglass became more popular. Most of their major competitors went out of business, and by the 1970s, Giesler Boats was the only original wood runabout producer in Ontario.
To this day, the Giesler's pride themselves on being able to maintain their original values as a business: building a great quality boat at a price that people can actually afford.
Barney's grandson, Gerry, is now in charge of the business and they staff many local citizens as well as Giesler family members to this day.
In the year 1954, Mervyn and Rita Oshell opened a business which has now been running for 65 years (as of 2019). The original Oshell's Food Market opened as part of the Red & White Food Stores chain.
Built on the site of an old garage, the store started off with only 2000 square feet from which Merv and Rita sold fresh produce and groceries.
It truly became a family affair as Merv and Rita's children began joining the business and in 1975, their son Peter took over the business with his wife, Elaine. Additionally, in 1985, a new green and white theme was undertaken and the business became Oshell's Valu-Mart.
In 2010, Peter sold the business to his brother, Paul, keeping it in the family line.
In an interview with former owner Paul Oshell, he revealed some spectacular details about the business:
The business has undergone seven expansions which have changed the square footage from 2000 sq. feet to over 15,000 sq. feet! In 1991, the largest expansion project took place with 5000 sq. feet being added at once.
The business has also hosted an annual event which feeds over one thousand individuals in need by providing a free meal.
The Oshell's have donated to many different local organizations like the Powassan medical centers, children's camps, and local arenas.
When asked about what his favourite part of running the business was, Peter answered that it was being a part of the family legacy and providing an excellent service to the community which motivated him to push forward through inevitable struggles of running a business in Powassan.
Paul's Funeral Home
Paul's Funeral Home is a family business which dates back to the 1920s. Their present-day location on Main St.
The original owner was James McArthur, a settler to Powassan in the 1890s. Out of that building, he initially operated a furniture store, then switched to a hardware store and funeral business in 1897 - complete with a horse-drawn hearse. Herman Paul J. and his wife, Enid, bought the business in 1926.
The hardware store portion of the business remained in the funeral building until 1947, and in that year it was moved to the present-day location of IDA Pharmacy on King & Main Street. That year the building was renovated and fittingly renamed Paul's Funeral Home.
Herman and Enid had four children - three girls and one boy, named Max. Max received his embalming license in 1951 to assist in the family business, and in 1958 he took it over from his parents officially. Max was dedicated to educating people on funerals and the topic of death as it is a subject which people tend to have questions about.
Max sadly passed away at the age of 49 in 1980, but his memory and the family business lived on through his wife and children. Richard Paul - Herman's only son - took over the directorial position in 1982, and the building funeral home burned down one month later on July 23rd of 1982 (as depicted above).
Luckily, the town of Powassan rose together to provide space for Paul's to continue operating their business until the home was rebuilt in 1983. Richard became the owner of the funeral home in 1987, and presently runs the business today with his wife Joanne.
Scarlett/Cox's General Store
The picture-perfect building on the Southwest corner of Main St. & Memorial Park Drive has been home to many important businesses throughout its standing years.
Constructed in 1891 by Edward Topps and Henry Wraight, this business was owned by John S. Scarlett who operated it as a general store.
Sometime between 1891 and 1896, they sold the property to Jane E. Hamilton, and in her will, she bequeathed the property to her grandchildren, Hartley Richardson and A.L. Perkins.
They operated the business as Richardson & Perkins General Merchants, and soon after it was just Perkins & Co. - a grocery store.
The store was sold in 1942 to the McDonald Trading Company, but one of Perkins' old employees bought the store from them in March of 1946. His name was John Wesley Cox.
Wesley bought the store after his sons, Sharkey and Mickey, returned from the war, and when they purchased it, the idea of a "supermarket" was becoming popular. They decided to stay down the traditional lane and opened Cox's General Store.
Wesley worked until the age of 78 where he died a working man inside his store in 1969. His sons operated the store until 1975, which is when they sold to Carl and Donna Haglund who operated Carl's Discount Plumbing.
In 1994, Gari and Lori Stillar purchased the building, and now it is home to Royal LePage Realty.
The building was restored in 1980 to its original structure to celebrate Powassan's 75th anniversary of municipalization.
On the North-Eastern corner of Main & King Street sits the new Hummingbird @ King & Main Restaurant. This building houses a long history of services in the town of Powassan.
Although it is not known exactly when it was built, the first records we know of show a transaction in which the Duncan's sold their store to Mr. James Porter in 1888.
The Porter's were a well-respected family in Powassan, and they operated the building known as "Porter's Store" until 1913, that is when Walter Jessup purchased the property.
In 1946, Tom Trenouth bought the store and named it Trenouth's store. Mr. Trenouth was once the mayor of Powassan, and he married Catherine Porter. Thus, keeping the store within the Porter family for another generation.
In 1964, they sold the store to George Crawford, and then in 1969 to Larry Froud and Noble Investments.
In 1974, it was sold to Ray Sauvé and it became Ray's Fun Room. In the 2000's it was purchased by Todd White and renamed the Hawk & Fox restaurant and store.
But now, Patricia Kunkel is operating the wonderful Hummingbird @ King & Main and revitalizing the restaurant in Powassan.
Gomoll's Timbermart is a 50-year-old family business which has a long-standing tradition of providing quality services to the people of Powassan.
Allan Gomoll and his family have a long history in the local construction and contracting business here in Powassan. Al's father, Fredrick, started a contracting business with his two sons in 1953 and it was called F.A. Gomoll & Sons Contracting.
Between the years 1953 and 1980, they built 86 homes, 27 additions, 16 cottages, 13 schools, 6 portables, 6 garages, 6 renovations, 2 post offices, 1 chalet, the Powassan OPP offices, and Eastholme.
After an injury, Al stopped working construction in 1969 and opened a store in the building supplies division, Gomoll's Timbermart. His brother, Clayton, joined him in 1980. The store just celebrated its 50th anniversary on June 15th, 2019.
In 1989, Al's daughter, Shelley joined the team and now currently owns and operates the store alongside her father.
The Windsor Hotel
The Windsor Hotel, a landmark in Powassan's past which is no longer standing. It was located on the South-West corner of Main & King Street and is now the current location of the Powassan Medical Centre.
Originally constructed in the 1880s as a general store and private residence, the hotel was building was only single-story. The locally famous William Faulkner Clark actually resided there with his family until 1893.
The property was sold in 1906, and the hardware store was converted into a restaurant and bar, and two stories were added above converting the space into the new Windsor Hotel.
Between 1908 and 1996, the building was sold or passed down to new owners at least 8 times, and based on financial records found by the previous owners, the 1950s was when the hotel was in its prime.
A longstanding rumor about the Windsor is that the third floor was operated as a brothel in the early to mid-1900s. A record was actually discovered from a 1920's town council meeting where the priest of the Catholic Church requested a head tax on any man who walked into the "blasphemous establishment" that is the Windsor Hotel.
The building had seen its fair share of damages throughout its lifetime. It was almost destroyed in 1913 by a hurricane, and then again in 1916 by a fire.
When Laurel Campbell and Roger George, the final owners, took over in 1996, they did it to be more connected to the downtown core of Powassan. They said it was fascinating to see all of the different personal backgrounds of the people who entered the Windsor.
When Laurel and Roger sold the hotel to a developer, the plan was to restore the hotel but plans changed and the building was demolished in 2010 and the lot was vacant until a new medical center was constructed and opened in November of 2018.
The Temperance Hotel
Constructed in 1887 and 1888, the Temperance was one of three hotels in Powassan during its lifetime.
Also commonly known as the Powassan Hotel, the Temperance was located on the present-day Scotiabank lot.
It was an entirely wood-frame building and was owned by many different proprietors despite its short lifespan. The hotel suffered from a fire in August of 1924, which was started by a poorly disposed of cigarette butt.
Once again, in 1929, another fire struck the Temperance hotel - as well as other local businesses - and burned down the hotel to a point where it was unsalvageable. The workman's cigarette which caused this fire forced the hotel's owners to pack up their family and move back to Burk's Falls.
The lot has been used for many different purposes over the years but is now home to Scotiabank and Hummingbird Realty.
The only photos which can be found of this hotel are of it burning down!
The Queen's Hotel
The Queen's Hotel was another hotel in Powassan in the early 1900s when Powassan was a popular stop-off for long-distance travelers.
At the start of 1886, Christopher Armstrong deeded this property - which is now Eide's Residential Home - to John Storie and John Hanran to open a hotel. The building burned down, so they were forced to start from the ground up. They constructed the Queen's Hotel after obtaining a Liquor License.
In 1889, they sold the business to the Porter family. Between 1889 and 1919 (30 years), the property was sold and repurchased 7 times.
In 1914, the Great Fire took out the entire south-east block of town, destroying more than 14 buildings and businesses. The reconstruction started in 1915.
In 1919, the building was sold to the Parry Sound House of Refuge and became The House of Refuge for Powassan. Their services were directed to citizens who were unable to meet the necessary standards of living. It operated until 1965 and in that year it became Parry Sound District Home for the Aged. Most of the refugees were deemed to be elderly so it was felt like an appropriate move.
It was renamed Eastholme and stayed that way until the new facility was built on Big Bend Avenue where it still is today. After Eastholme moved buildings, it was known as the Ontario Hospitals Half-Way House and then in 1985, it was taken over by Carl and Mary Eide.
The pair renamed it Eide's Residential Home, and it is still operating under that name to this day but under the ownership of Carl and Mary's son, Steve, and his wife, Susan.