Over the past 150 years, it is remarkable that Van Tuyl and Fairbank has survived. The challenges have been constant – Fenian raids, a boom and bust cycle of oil, the coming of the car, two world wars, the rapid decline of the oil fields, and The Depression are just a few. It also has tackled fires, floods, and suppliers reluctant to sell to small businesses.
Changing times has meant changing shopping habits too. The small town loyalty of supporting businesses and people in your own community has faded from what it was. There is a movement of Buying Local but the arrival of big box stores still lures many. Van Tuyl prides itself on the expertise of its staff and it’s well-stocked inventory means you can get what you need right away and get on with your project.
Another huge challenge for the store has been technology. The accounting was always done in massive books that looked like they belonged in a Dickens novel and the switch to computers was not easy for long-time employees. The computer system has been continuously upgraded and refined and is now humming along nicely.
The store has withstood various thieves too. One unsuccessfully hammered at the safe, and one dark night, some kids tried to break in but were spotted by the nearby neighbours who were in their rooftop hot tub above their main street store. The yelling hot-tubbers scared the kids out of their wits and they ran as fast as their legs could carry them.
The onslaught of time has been a challenge on the store building too. The exterior has been upgraded to board and batten and inside, the gravel and dirt floors are slowly being replaced with cement. An incredible number of horseshoes were found scattered about eight inches beneath the plywood floor in one section. In the spring of 2015, the weather-beaten wooden door at the alley entrance was replaced with a steel one. It was a bit of shock for regular customers who had always known that wooden door. It had been there since 1929 or earlier.