CORBETTS' 80TH ANNIVERSARY
- In 1941, Bud Corbett, a sports aficionado and dedicated coach in the Oakville, Ontario community didn’t start his business by opening the doors to his store. Instead, he opened the trunk of his car. Out of the parking lot, Bud Corbett started his 80-year legacy of selling sporting goods and wove a name and brand into the Oakville community that we’ve all grown to know and love - Corbetts.
With a knack for selling and understanding what athletes wanted, it wasn’t long before Bud moved his merchandise from his Ford to brick and mortar. He opened a one-stop-shop for sporting goods; offering everything from hockey and baseball, to football and golf, to hunting and fishing.
With Bud’s passion for sports, the store grew in notoriety and inventory, and became Oakville’s go-to sporting goods store. In 1967, well into his success, Bud passed the torch into good hands and sold the business to his long-time employee, Ken Brown. Ken also brought in John Shields as a partner - a great marksman and manager of Corbetts for many decades.
It was Ken who had the vision of introducing skiing and winter sports to the fold—a move that would forever cement the store’s legacy in the community and surrounding area, which still holds today, as Corbetts is widely-regarded as Southern Ontario’s perennial retail source for skiing and snowboarding
"It seems to me that Corbetts has become an institution in the ski and snowboard industry because of their passion for the sports and their strong focus on building relationships,” explains Kit Cameron, a sales rep for Sunice, a skiwear brand offered at Corbetts. "They have done a great job at focusing on relationships with their customers, creating a shopping environment that has friendly, knowledgeable staff and offers a great selection of brands for ski and snowboard families. Strong partnerships and respect between the suppliers and Corbetts has also proved to be a key to their success. Bottom line: Kim, Chris and the Corbetts gang are a lot of fun to work with, in fact all three of my kids worked at Corbetts and loved it!"
- The Ski & Snowboard Era
Ken’s decision to specialize in skiing and winter sports really shifted the store’s focus and changed the business for good. Brown’s son-in-law, and Corbetts’ current owner, Chris Tymstra explains, "It’s what’s started the little empire we have here now. We streamlined the inventory, focused on the skiing and snowboarding market, and it increased business tenfold."
When Ken decided it was time to retire, Chris took over the store in 1996, along with his wife (and Ken’s daughter), Kim. Chris stuck to the winning formula of exclusively selling ski and snowboard products, and over the next 20 years, he continued to solidify the Corbetts brand into Oakville’s history by employing hundreds of local employees and selling over 100,000 skis and snowboards. Corbetts has also been blessed with some longtime in-house industry leaders, Rob Clarke and David Cummings who have been here for decades, adding their special skills to the Corbetts roster; they are true ski experts in the industry.
- Corbetts is a Family Affair
A big reason why Corbetts has stood the test of time is that it’s rooted in family. Since its inception back in 1941, Corbetts has always fostered a family-first approach.
"Ken was like a son to Bud, and I was a son to Ken," says Chris, "We don’t base the core of the business around metrics and revenue. We base it around family and good people."
In fact, after 20 great years, Chris has witnessed many of his staff fall in love and get married. He’s had the pleasure of seeing a dozen or so relationships develop into marriages, and at one point Corbetts had three generations working for them.
With so many strong relationships, finding new staff, whether it’s permanent or seasonal, has never been a challenge for Corbetts. And there’s never a shortage of young people—the lifeblood of the industry—as past employees are always ushering their offspring into the fold.
Corbetts is also reputed for their work hard/play hard mentality. Not only do they focus on the business, but they create a family atmosphere where everyone who’s a part of the team is included in their success and legendary events they hold year-round. They’re the rare type of company that inspires people to walk the extra mile for them.
- The Future
As the online world continues to bring in a new era of how people shop and engage with local businesses, Corbetts has made a point of staying ahead of the curve and are very in-tune with leveraging technology to engage their customers. They’ve built a solid online presence and reputation, using warehouse management software, e-commerce tools, social media marketing, and a fully responsive mobile website.
- Continuing The Legacy
Chris has no plans of slowing down, and intends to keep the Oakville landmark in the community for years to come.
"I envision Corbetts being around for another 80 years,” he says. “We’ve got the right technology and marketing strategies in place to stay relevant with the younger generation, and I’m looking forward to passing on the business to my children when the time comes."
If that doesn’t make you smile, this surely will: recognizing the community’s involvement in their continued success, Corbetts has been a part of a program that’s focused on giving back. For the last three years, the store has donated a portion of its sales—$100,000 in total—to the Oakville Hospital Foundation, and plans on continuing to do so.