© GUARDIAN PHOTO BY SALLY COLE
Organizers of the Henderson & Cudmore reunion look at an advertising supplement celebrating the store’s 80th anniversary in 1994. The family of stores closed in 2001. From left are Clive Cudmore, Alma Birt and Chris Cudmore. The get-together for former employees will be held June 21 at the Haviland Club in Charlottetown, 2-6 p.m. For more information, contact Clive at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to Henderson & Cudmore Staff Meet Facebook page.
Alma Birt’s face lights up when she talks about working at Henderson & Cudmore.
The clothing store, known for its creative window displays and seasonal sales, set the pace for men’s and women’s fashions in Charlottetown from 1914 to 2001.
“I enjoyed the pretty clothes that they picked out for me (to wear). I enjoyed every day I went to work,” says Birt, who started in the business office in 1963 and went on to manage the cosmetics department where the loyal employee worked until 1988.
“They treated me wonderfully. I had two little boys and I used to have to take time off for them. Once, Brian (Cudmore) arrived at my door with a crate. Inside it was a new bike. He wondered whether the boys would like it. It was their first bike and a wonderful gift.”
Clive Cudmore also has fond memories, mostly of the people he met.
“We had a huge customer base — not just on P.E.I. but all around the Maritimes. The commercial salesmen, who were on the road, became our customers because we would sell them a nice suit at a reasonable price that they could wear to work. And they would pass the word. So, we would have customers from Halifax and Moncton who would come in and get their clothes at our stores,” says the former vice-president/director of marketing for the store.
The store also had a tradition for helping people in need, a practice started by his father, Roy, and business partner, Seth Henderson.
“I had a friend whose father had died. He didn’t have a suit to wear to the funeral so I said, come in and I’ll give you one. So I gave him a suit and said, ‘don’t worry about it. Pay me when you can.’ Sure enough, six months later he came in, almost crying saying, ‘thank you so much.’”
Cudmore and Birt are looking forward to sharing their memories at the Henderson & Cudmore reunion next month. And they’re inviting others to join them.
“All former employees of Henderson & Cudmore are invited to a get together, a meet and greet on Saturday, June 21st, at the Haviland Club in Charlottetown. We hope that people will come and visit, shake hands and say hello to all the old friends they’ve worked with,” says Cudmore, adding the event runs 2-6 p.m. and finger food will be provided.
The idea for the gathering began a decade ago.
“Over the years we’ve received requests from people saying, ‘wouldn’t it be nice if we could get together sometime?’” says Cudmore.
But, it wasn’t until two former employees held a brainstorming session four years ago that plans started to take shape.
“Alma and my sister-in-law, Beth Cudmore, got together at York Point and started writing down the names of employees that used to work at the store,” says Cudmore.
When they finished, there were 350 people on their list.
“From that number we’re hoping that 100 people will come,” says Birt who, with Cudmore, has been working to contact all the former employees.
And while they’ve enjoyed success with the Henderson & Cudmore Staff Meet Facebook page, which has 54 members, they’ve faced challenges.
“Since we started talking about this, a couple of people have passed away,” says Birt, noting that Beth died in 2011.
“She would be so happy that we are going ahead with this.”
Although a latecomer to the planning process, because he’s been away all winter, her son is looking forward to the reunion.
“I’m excited about it. I love to see all the old faces,” says Chris Cudmore, who also has memories to share.
“As a teenager I came in at Christmas time and started folding Christmas boxes for Brian, Clive and my grandfather. Then, occasionally, after school, I would be called on to deliver a package to Brighton to someone who just had their pants altered. “I also think about all the fun we had down in Dave’s Cave in the basement. We sold thousands of jeans out of there.
“Yes, it was quite a store in its day.”
Henderson & Cudmore history
1914 - Roy Cudmore and Seth Henderson open The Haberdashery.
1918 - Canadian servicemen return home after fighting in Europe. The store helps P.E.I. boys trade in their khaki uniforms for the latest in menswear.
1949 - Seth Henderson dies. Roy Cudmore buys shares in the partnership from Henderson's wife, giving the Cudmores sole control over the store, Henderson & Cudmore.
1960 - A boy's wear store opens where Roots is now located.
1967 - Dave's Cave, a jeans and casual store opens in the basement of the Haberdashery.
1969 - A new, three-story headquarters is built on the site of the original Haberdashery.
1969 - Charlotte's, a women's store, opens on the top floor
1976 - Chris Cudmore opens two jeans stores at the Charlottetown Mall and Waterfront Place in Summerside.
1987 - The Haberdashery West in Summerside opens.
1994 - The Henderson & Cudmore family of stores celebrates 80th anniversary.
2001- Henderson & Cudmore family of stores closes its doors.
2012 - The family’s retail tradition continues as Chris Cudmore opens Cool as a Moose store in Whistler, B.C.
2014 - Chris opens second Cool as a Moose store in Banff, Alta.
(Sources: The Guardian, Chris Cudmore, Clive Cudmore)