doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

Whatever happened to …

… Eaton’s stores?

Thanks to Sheila Stewart for yet another great idea for a Sunday morning post. It came in the form of a link to a story about Thunder Bay’s Eaton’s building.

Growing up in a small town, Eaton’s was a big deal for us. We didn’t have a big department store so it was ordering from the catalogue for the most of the time. Every now and again, we would take a trip to London to go to an actual store. It was marvellous, particularly running up to Christmas. It was located in Wellington Square and later at the Galleria.

At university, my wife and I would entertain ourselves by walking through the Kitchener store. We didn’t have money to spend there but it was nice to walk through and just look at things. In Kitchener, it was located at the Market Square Shopping Centre. I lived on bus route 8 and she on bus route 7. Both met at Market Square.

When I went to the Faculty of Education in Toronto, my roommate and his father both worked at the Eaton Centre downtown in the heart of the city. It was huge! Many floors and thanks to my connections, I learned that there was a whole part of the store that the general public would never see but was there to make the whole thing work.

Eaton Centre recently – the geese are still there!

I’ve never been to the store in Thunder Bay, Sheila, so can’t comment there.

Eaton’s always seemed to up their advertising game close to Christmas.

As we all know, the T. Eaton Company is no longer around. It was a sad ending to a Canadian institution. Often, these stores were the anchor store in a big shopping mall. Shopping has changed and Eaton’s demise was just the beginning – Sears, Simpsons, Zellers, … they’re gone now. The big survivor is The Hudson Bay Company.

Do you have any memories to share?

  • I know that the grammar police will be out in force on this post. I’ve done my research – Eaton’s does have an apostrophe but Sears, Simpsons and Zellers don’t. Little help/explanation here?
  • What big, big event did Eaton’s sponsor in Toronto annually?
  • I can only recall visiting the three stores I’ve listed above. Where else was there an Eaton’s?
  • What has replaced Eaton’s in its London, Kitchener, and Toronto locations?
  • What colour was the Eaton’s logo?
  • What’s your department store of choice these days?
  • Is online shopping the writing on the wall?

Do you have any memories of this grand institution? If so, please share in the comments below. (For more information and pictures than you can imagine about Eaton’s, click here.)

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If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

8 responses to “Whatever happened to …”

  1. Maybe it’s my fear of the mall that makes me remember so little about Eaton’s … other than the big news that it was closing. Now you’re making me think about all of the holiday shopping I have to do today. Ahhh!! 🙂



  2. Growing up in London Ont, , it was a holiday tradition to head downtown to see the Christmas window display at Simpson’s on the corner of Richmond and Dundas. Simpson’s has been gone for quite some time now ~ the corner is now a McDonalds 😔


  3. The apostrophe on Eaton’s (which disappears in French) is because it was the Easton family’s store – as in go down to Mr Eaton’s store……I assume it might originally have been there on the other establishments eventually.


  4. If feel very informed now! Thanks for sharing all the information and your personal connection to this topic, Doug! Good reading this Sunday morning!

    I appreciated your details about London, as I was trying to remember what was in place when I was there for school in the 80s. Very interesting to read in the link you provided that the Wellington Square was the first enclosed mall in Canada and the first downtown one in N. America! I don’t think I went into the Wellington Square or Galleria locations, but I do remember going into Simpsons/The Bay on the corner of Richmond and Dundas (now that Sue mentioned that). The Kitchener Market seems similar to what London tried to do. Interesting that fitness centres are in those locations and in Thunder Bay’s now.

    I think I have only been in the Toronto location once — maybe on my school’s Grade 8 trip? As for Winnipeg, I would have been in that location many times via a 2 hour drive from Kenora with my family or friends. It was interesting to read from your Wikipedia source that it was considered the most successful department store for a some time. I also noted that the last catalogue was the spring/summer one of 1976.

    I used to go into the Thunder Bay location (with an indoor mall attached) a lot when we moved to the city. I still shop in the stores located in that same downtown area. The area has revitalized in the last few years, so it will be interesting what that space will become with a new developer’s plans.

    As for grammar 🙂 .. I recalled that it used to be Simpsons-Sears and I did some online searching about that. I came across this explanation about ‘s:

    “Until 1972, the operating name of the company was Simpson’s. During a time of increased pressure and sensitivity towards French language issues in Quebec, the company dropped the apostrophe. Although not yet law, companies began dropping the English possessive “‘s” from their names. Rival Eaton’s became simply “Eaton”. However, company management did not want the company known as Simpson, so it dropped the apostrophe and changed the name to “Simpsons” ” (Link: )

    When I think about the Eaton’s logo, I think of the navy blue and burgundy-ish colour right away. For some reason, I have hung onto an old, blue paper shopping bag with the Eaton’s name on it. Maybe it will be worth something some day 🙂

    There are no more big department stores left in Thunder Bay, so I make do with the Winners/Homesense store for that kind of mixed shopping experience. I don’t think I could become a big online shopper… unless we move to a smaller town or city.. maybe?

    Thanks again for expanding on my topic idea! Informative and nostalgic! 🙂


  5. Typo right at the beginning of my comment – lol. “I” not if!! Probably not the only typo, I bet.. haha


  6. […] Sunday –  Whatever happened to … Eaton’s Stores? […]


  7. I remember shopping at the Eaton’s in Chatham with my mom, and waiting for the Eaton’s and Sears catalogues. I guess that was like the early version of online shopping. We didn’t have to go into the store; we could just call and have our order shipped to Tilbury.
    John and I were just in Toronto last week. It seemed odd to be at The Eaton Centre without Eaton’s. When I was attending Ryerson, I lived a few blocks from The Eaton Centre. Hanging out there was cheap entertainment – watching all the people, window shopping, watching the fountain, checking out the seasonal decor…..


  8. […] Whatever happened to … – doug — off the record […]


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