It may seem odd to profile a retail lumber and hardware store as a travel destination, but there’s a lot that makes UJ Robichaud in Meteghan special. Not only is U.J. Robichaud firmly rooted in the history of Clare, but this company also has an eye to the future, having been recognized on multiple occasions as a leader in green innovation.
The shop is as old as Canada, having been founded during the year of Confederation in 1867, and still stores, and makes use of, many of the tools and equipment that were in use a century ago.
The lumber mart has been passed down from generation to generation in the Robichaud family, and is now owned and operated by my friend, Daniel Robichaud. I met him in the storefront, a fairly typical looking and unassuming hardware store. From there he took me out back to the old wood warehouses for a trip back through some of Clare’s history.
Not only do the tall wood buildings around back house equipment and goods acquired for the enterprise, but also many decades worth of artifacts and stories connected to the history of the region. The original saws, planers and hand-woven leather belts are still here and in good working order, though the steam engine has been replaced with a diesel one.
In this room, you will find the molds for the pews that fill many of the local churches; in that room, perhaps the most comprehensive collection of original crown molding knives to be found. In 1912, one building was converted to a wheat co-op, with 320 shareholders, that produced whole wheat brown flour. All of the 100 year old equipment to make the wheat is still here, still works, and could be put back to use to make wheat again quite easily.
In 2009, former owner and operator Marc Robichaud was named Green Innovator of the Year by the North American Retail Hardware Association. Marc’s brother, Daniel, the current owner and operator, says the Timbrmart location in Church Point is one of the greenest, if not the greenest, hardware stores in Canada.
“The Church Point store was designed with skylights and light wells, uses two windmills and 12 solar panels that charge a 20 cell battery system and is heated with an oil, biomass, solar evacuation hybrid furnace,” Robichaud explains. “We have a rigid waste management system, do not use any Tungsten bulbs and are replacing all fluorescent bulbs with LED.”
U.J. Robichaud is one of only five Nova Scotian companies that has been around since Confederation, and is today the oldest independent hardware and lumber store in North America. There are many things that are worth learning about when visiting Clare, but this is a fascinating little stone not to be left unturned.