Among co-workers and customers, Gary Best is affectionately known as Mr. Canadian Tire.
The longtime Salmon Arm Canadian Tire employee is proud of the title – one he picked up more than 30 years ago when he worked at Canadian Tire in Kamloops. As Best explains, a customer came into the store and asked to speak to Mr. Canadian Tire. At first no one knew who the customer was talking about until he described Best.
The name stuck, which is fine with Best, who considers it a show of respect.
“People respect you for all the help,” explained Best. “When there’s something they can’t find and other staff don’t know, they would go, ‘Where is Mr. Canadian Tire? He knows where everything is in the store.’
“And it’s not just stuff here. I tell customers to go to Rona, Home Hardware, all the businesses in town. I’m a homeowner too… When they say they’re coming to see Mr. Canadian Tire, I also help out other businesses, not just our business. I talk about the community.”
Best says that’s something he’ll definitely miss. He’s retiring next month, after working 10 years for Canadian Tire in Kamloops and 30 in Salmon Arm.
The Salmon Arm store’s owner, Mario Schuchardt, said staff will be gathering on May 2 to celebrate Best.
“He’s always been the face, I guess, he’s been the go-to person that people look for and ask for help from…,” said Schuchardt.
Best first got into retail when he lived in Nova Scotia. He worked for Woodwards from 1972 to 1976. Later, he worked at a steel plant in Sydney. When the plant closed down, he moved to Kamloops to work with his sister, who’d already been working with Canadian Tire for eight years.
Best’s Canadian Tire career began on March 2, 1982.
There are a number of reasons why Best has stuck with Canadian Tire. While he speaks highly of the wages, benefits and the store’s profit-sharing program, Best explained it has more to do with people – his employers, co-workers and customers.
Over the years, Best has amassed a collection of Canadian Tire memorabilia, from early cans of oil and transmission fluid to an array of limited edition die-cast vehicles. He said one day he’d like to display it all at the front of the store.
Not surprisingly, Best also has acquired a large amount of Canadian Tire money.
“I’ve been collecting Canadian Tire money since I was a wee boy, before I came out here. I don’t know how much I have but I never, ever spent a penny it,” said Best.
Looking ahead to retirement, Best hopes to get out fishing, riding his Honda Goldwing 750 V45-Plus on motorcycle trips with friends, and returning to Nova Scotia to visit with family – something he hasn’t been able to do for the past couple of years due to the pandemic.
“And maybe go to Barbados one day, where my dad was born, and see the countryside,” Best added.
While he will miss waking up in the mornings to head for work, Best plans to continue shopping at the Salmon Arm store, and won’t be surprised if he finds someone in need of and/or asking for help from Mr. Canadian Tire – which he’ll happily provide.
Set up near the store’s staff room and administrative offices, a large white board is covered with well wishes for Salmon Arm’s Mr. Canadian Tire. Another thing that fills Best with pride.
To those co-workers just starting out, Best says there’s a long, fruitful career ahead with Canadian Tire if they want it.
“Try to achieve your goal if you want to stick with Canadian Tire…,” said Best. “Canadian Tire has a lot of people working for them. It takes a mountain of staff to run Canadian Tire, from our end to merchandise managers to designers and store planners, you can get into Canadian Tire for just about everything for a career.”
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter