Folk’s Finer Furs owner closes business
Folk can think of a few finer things than retirement . . . like coming to work every day.
The owner of Folk’s Finer Furs will be wrapped in warm memories today as he closes the doors on his cornerstone business at Second Avenue and 20th Street.
This final day of March marks the end of an era in Saskatoon retailing, as the Folk family shuts two businesses in a building it has owned for almost five decades. The family sold the building housing Folk’s Finer Furs and Folk’s Curling Corner to Edgar Properties last year for $1.84 million — above the listing price for the hot downtown property.
Folk’s Finer Furs was located in the former National Trust Co. bank building since 1960, but has been in business since 1947, when it was located in the Empire Hotel. Opened by Alex Folk, the business was taken over by son Merv, now the last independent furrier in Saskatchewan.
The fur store’s long-term future is still uncertain.
“If we could find a spot that’s suitable, I think my daughter (Debbie) is most interested in carrying on,” Merv Folk said in an interview Monday.
Folk was not at all sure he wanted to sell the building, at first. He loves the site and notes the building had several advantages for a fur store.
“It was roomy and it had these high ceilings,” he said, thinking back to when the family purchased it. “It was bigger than what we needed, which was also a bonus.”
The bank had a big vault with a steel door, which was perfect for fur storage. The fur salon, of course, was at the front of the property, but there was also room in the large basement for fur cleaning and a workshop in the back for repairs and restyling.
Merv Folk has seen many of his competitors close during the years, including Gurstein Furs, Grant Furs and Yaeger Furs. Certainly, the market has changed in the last couple of decades.
However, Folk’s was also enjoying the upswing in the Saskatchewan economy of late.
“We had the best season we’ve had in 10, 15 years,” said Folk, who also sold high-end leather coats and jackets and fur-trimmed microsuede coats.
Although he is considering reopening, Folk says he will “take it easy for a while” and see if he can adjust to “doing very little. I would sooner come to work than sit in the house.”
He would have preferred to stay open in the existing location but because the building was owned by the family, he thought it was fairer to sell in a good market “and let my brothers and sister have their money before they get older.”
So, the family put the property on the market in spring 2008 at $1.75 million and had the higher offer from Edgar Properties three days later.
Edgar is planning a $50-million, 12-storey office and retail tower on the site. It will be connected by a pedestrian walkway to a smaller, four-or five-storey building on First Avenue South and 20th Street.
Almost a year later, Folk has come to terms with the sale.
“I’m OK with it now, outside of not having my store, which I liked so well. I’m going to miss it.”
Plenty of customers will miss it, too. Many have come in to wish Folk well and to pick up their stored furs.
“Customers are saying, ‘You have to reopen, you have to reopen,’ ” said Folk.
The Folk family is at least as well-known in sporting circles as for furs.
Dave Folk, Merv’s younger brother, has operated Folk’s Curling Corner for 27 years. He just returned Sunday from Prince Edward Island, where he played on the senior men’s team skipped by Eugene Hritzuk. (They had a 7-4 record at the event.) Brother Rick has been a famous curler for many years.
Dave Folk is not closing his shop, however. Folk’s Curling Corner, minus the golfing equipment, will reopen at the Nutana Curling Club on Sept. 1.
While sales of golf clubs have slowed markedly, curling equipment remains a good business, he said.
“Curling is great, steady — and then I get the summer off,” said Dave Folk.
However, he feels “very sentimental” about selling the building and moving on.
“It was a family decision. I was fine where I was, but I was good either way. I think the timing has been good.”
Today is also the end of an era for Fred Dutka, owner of Rings n’ Things, a goldsmithing shop located above Folk’s.
The business has been in that location for 34 years and Dutka has been there for 32 ⁄ of them.
It will be a big change, but Dutka is moving down the street to 4-249A Second Ave. South, above Durand’s.
“Thank God that place was available. It made it easy on us,” said Dutka.
Moving with Dutka are Bob Wright of Saskatoon Gem Lab, who will be in Suite 1, and Eric Schreiner of Gene’s Watch Repair, taking over Suite 2.