Sears Canada may be gone for good, but former Terrace franchise owners Boota and Diljit Uppal won’t let that hinder their success as a local home-furnishings retailer. The couple has renewed their lease at the old Sears location and are planning a grand opening event for what’s now an authentically independent business, Terrace Appliances & Mattresses.
“Mostly it was my customers who wanted me to try, and told me not to give up,” Boota said. “So we’re trying. We’re happy. I love Terrace and I want to stay in Terrace.”
Customers will see very little change from the brands and items once offered under the Sears banner, but the prices will be lower, Boota said.
The new store is part of the Mega Group, a membership of hundreds of Canadian home furnishing retailers who combine their numbers to achieve a level of buying power on par with the large competitors. Without the apparatus of a major company, like infrastructure, offices and layers of management, the Uppals say they will see greater price flexibility than what was achievable with Sears.
“I’m very excited. I’ve had my own business for 17 years, and I would not be happy now working for someone else. For two months I didn’t know what I would do, but then I started visiting other stores (former Sears franchises) in Smithers and elsewhere and they were doing quite well on their own.”
Last October Sears Canada’s liquidated all its 190 stores and assets, following almost four months of court-approved creditor protection.
Despite 17 years of success with their franchise, the Uppals were forced out of business.
The action came just weeks before Boota’s annual humanitarian visit to his home village in India. Along with local physicians and surgeons volunteering their time, Boota and four others now living in North America pool their money to finance eye, medical and cancer clinics for the poor.
Boota fulfilled that mission regardless of his business uncertainties. At the time he said the hardest part of losing the franchise was the doubt it cast over future missions abroad.
“I am very happy being successful for 17 years, but I’m sad my humanitarian work has to stop,” he said at the time. “When I start my new business I would like to keep helping in the community, in Canada and in India.”
Over the years the Uppals have also used their success to give back to the local community, including the donation of refrigerators on multiple occasions to the hospital, food bank, schools and daycares, as well by sponsoring the athletic and academic pursuits of youth both here at home and abroad.