Templeton’s: Wall to wall for 159 years

Posted on April 08, 2022 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments

“Templeton’s, Templeton’s, we’ve got you covered, wall to wall.” Newfoundlanders are sure to recognize this catchy jingle from family-owned store Templeton’s. With over 150 years of history, the business was passed down through four generations of the Templeton family. Though their retail location is now closed, some operations continue, and the namesake building remains.


Photos of the Templeton’s building from the late 1970s and early 1980s (photo credit: Templeton’s)


Opening shop

Founder Robert Templeton, moved from Scotland to Newfoundland in the 1860s after accepting a job in sales. In 1863 the family name appeared on a storefront in St. John’s for the first time when Robert pursued his own business. Initially working with partners to open a store, Robert eventually became sole owner in 1890 and named the business ‘Robert Templeton’. In-store, patrons could find dry goods, groceries and other items from Europe and the United States. Templeton’s also shipped items to retailers and customers across the island.

Early operations at Templeton’s take you back. Like many early businesses in Newfoundland, Templeton’s once had a house flag, which was raised on Signal Hill when ships were arriving with goods for their store. Templeton’s was also one of the first stores to take cash as payment instead of fish.

When asked about the early days of the business, current co-owner David Templeton spoke in admiration of his great-grandfather’s entrepreneurial spirit. He told stories of his involvement in various industries across the island, including forming United Can Manufacturing Company, Ltd.


Templeton’s employees in-store in 1996/1997 (photo credit: Templeton’s)


Focusing on home

Robert Templeton eventually passed the family business down to his son Robert Arthur (R.A.) Templeton, who was responsible for Templeton’s focus on home products. In 1922, the store began specializing in wallpaper, paint and floor coverings. Dave Templeton says wallpaper was especially good business in the early days, since Newfoundlanders would add another layer to their walls about twice a year for insulation. The business also had salesmen on the road and supplied products to other retailers.

Over time, Templeton’s was passed down through two other generations. First to three of R.A.’s eight sons, and then to current co-owners David and John Templeton.


Description of the United Can Manufacturing Company, Ltd., founded by Robert Templeton and other local merchants in 1872 (photo credit: Templeton’s)


Changing times

In 2016, Templeton’s announced a liquidation sale and plans to close their retail store, due to declining sales. Speaking to local media at the time, John and Dave said it was hard to attribute the dip in sales to one thing. They said it seemed to be a combination of competition from big box stores, downtown construction, lack of parking and other changes over the years.


Templeton’s building on Harbour Drive in 2016 (left) and in the same location in the late 1800s (right) before Harbour Drive was created. Now owned by the Templeton family, the building was originally constructed by T. Hallett, Ltd. (photo credit: CBC)


Still canning

Although the retail store is now closed, Dave and John maintain some operations at the family business today, including online sales of canning supplies and other long-term contracts. The Templeton’s building also remains, now occupied by other local businesses such as East Coast Quilting Co. and The Seed Company.

Looking back at the business’ legacy, David Templeton attributes their success to one thing—their employees. “Anyone would tell you that the loyal staff we had over the last 100+ years was really the strength of the company.”

159 years of history, from wall to wall.

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