Hennessy’s closing after 60 years in business
It is indeed the end of an era.
Don Hennessy Ltd. in Duntroon will close this summer. For 60 years, the business has been at the centre of the village.
Back in 1957, Don and Margaret Hennessy bought the “Checker Garage” service station from Jack Swalm, and they sold BA brand gas (British American), which later became Gulf.
“We had $10 in change for the till and $200 in the bank,” remembers Margaret. “Don came home thoroughly upset after the first day, when he was there from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and only took in $9. However things did start to improve and we were able to carry on.”
Shortly after buying the garage, Don, in addition to repairing vehicles, built a tow truck and put it into service. Margaret pumped gas and worked the counter.
When the country schools were closed, Margaret drove the first school bus in Nottawasaga Township, taking students to Duntroon Public School. They also bought an ambulance service, which they operated for five years.
She said, by then, the garage business was doing well and they were able to sell the ambulance.
In 1959, they started selling David Brown tractors and other farm equipment until the manufacturer was bought by Case. They later changed to Belarus and then Zetor, eventually becoming a Husqvarna dealer.
“Don was a good salesman,” said Margaret… “The repair shop was always busy.”
All four of their children – Lois, Susan, Bill and John – worked at the service centre in some capacity over the years.
“Everybody did what had to be done,” said Margaret. “It was a family business.”
Both sons became auto mechanics, doing their apprenticeship with their father, as did other local young men.
John left the company to work at Honda in Alliston and Bill continued to work for his father.
When the general store closed in the early 1990s, they took on the Canada Post kiosk.
Don also had an active political career moving up the ranks from councillor to Reeve of Nottawasaga Township. He was then elected to the school board before returning to council, this time with the amalgamated municipality of Clearview Township.
After Don’s death in December of 1997, Margaret signed the business over to Bill but she continued to work there regularly until an injury prevented her from doing so. But on March 19, she made a point of pumping gas to mark the 60th anniversary of the business.
The business will close its doors on June 30, and until that day they are having an end of an era clearance sale.
Bill said he was approached with an offer to buy the building and he decided to accept.
It is not known what will take its place or where the post office boxes will be located.
Photo: Bill Hennessy and Margaret Hennessy behind the counter at Don Hennessy Ltd. in Duntroon which is closing after 60 years in business.