From time to time over the years there have been published short “histories” of Gesco, and it's associated entities. Some of them detail individual episodes, such as when and how certain operations were commenced, or when and how certain partners joined and were promoted, and some attempt to cover, on one or two pages, all the years since inception of the Company. There are, of course, many omissions and sometimes there are errors or misstatements, perhaps inadvertent, for cosmetic reasons, or journalistic license. When credit is incorrectly assigned, or expropriated to or by the undeserved, it is usually at the expense of the deserved and it is a distortion of history, and an expropriation from the deserved and his/her family. I have been a member of the group since before the original incorporation of G.E.Shnier Co. Ltd. I am the only member who has been present for every major development in the history of the Company; and up to my official retirement in 1985 I led virtually every major development, and have been a leader or participant since retirement, and my memories remain sharp. I am therefore, aware of inaccuracies and omissions, and over time, I feel it is appropriate for me to “set the record straight”, and to fill in gaps in the “history” as time and opportunity avail themselves.
In June of 2000, at the opening ceremonies for the new main premises of Gesco Industries Inc., on Kenview Blvd., in Brampton, Historical Albums were presented to the first generation members of the founding family. These beautifully bound albums represent considerable research and effort by those who assembled them, and are a fine tribute by the current Gesco family members to their parents. While the History recites most events of public record, it could not possibly detail the numerous non-public events that occurred in the development of the organization, and it contains some errors and/or misstatements. As stated, it has been my goal to record in more complete details significant events, accomplishments, and crises that the organization has experienced throughout itsí history, and to correct misstatements that have gone on record. Some of this has already been done, and individual chapters are in my files, and available for perusal and possible additions or corrections, if appropriate, by anyone interested. Over time, hopefully more will be completed. I have attempted always to be objective and accurate, and will continue in that vein.
The following “chapter” on the “History of Eagle Distributing Co.” has been triggered by the statement in the Historical Album, and in a draft submitted by Clifford Shnier for the announcement of the recent buy-out of the Allan Shnier Shares in Gesco, that Allan Shnier is a “founder” of Eagle Distributing Co. This, of course, is a misstatement, and should not stand in the records.
Norman Shnier, March 2003
Around the latter part of 1947, or early 1948, family members in Winnipeg expressed concern to the Toronto members, about the situation regarding our father, Moishe Shnier. He had no livelihood, or real activity to keep him occupied, and although the family members as a group would certainly support him and our mother, the situation was bad psychologically.
Irving and Norman, in Toronto, suggested that he open a business and they would supply him with products being handled then, in Toronto, by G.E. Shnier Co. Ltd. The products consisted of odds and ends of War Surplus Products that were still available – army blankets, and inflatable dinghys, and other odd lots, plus rubber products from Lee Rubber – sink stoppers, force cups, rubber tubing, and sponges from Sponge Rubber Products Co., and even Air Mattresses that Shniers were selling to Sears and Montgomery Ward in the States. All these products were still in short supply and only had to be “on hand” in order to be sold.
Moishe Shnier, at his sonsí suggestion had a Company called Eagle Distributing Co registered. (a name suggested by Norman) He rented a premise at 178 Henry Ave., and “he was in business”.
For a short while, shortly after the business was started, and when it appeared evident it was a “go”, Max Shnier worked with his father during a period “between ventures”. Allan Shnier around that time finished high school and he entered the University of Manitoba. After some time at U of M, Allan was not encouraged to continue, and Max Shnier, before long, moved on. Allan, having no special training, commenced working for his father at Eagle. He was a likeable young man, and industrious, and no doubt helped the business to grow; and he was able to draw a fair wage, and keep up with his friends socially. Allan, contrary to statements made by some, was not a founder of Eagle Distributing Co.
Moishe Shnier was indebted to the Winnipeg grocery wholesaler, Weidman Bros., from a failed business in Saskatchewan. Although the debt dated back to 1927, Weidman Bros. apparently had never written it off, and since there never actually was a bankruptcy petition, Weidmanís, having become aware of M. Shnierís “come-back” started making suggestions that the obligation should be retired. On a visit to Toronto, Moishe voiced some concerns to Norman about losing Eagle because of the debt to Weidmanís and used the words “after all, itís all fur mein kindern”.
Norman suggested to his father “if thatís the case, why donít you write it over, now, to Allan”. On returning to Winnipeg, Moishe went to the lawyer, H. Sokolov (who died just recently) and had Eagle Distributing Co. (founded by Irving and Norman Shnier) written over to his son, Allan. (Normanís generous suggestion in favor of Allan could very well have been resented by the other “kindern” of Moishe Shnier, who might have considered themselves entitled to some share – had they known what was going on.)
Allan, no doubt a bit naÔve, was not very sensitive in the change over. Almost immediately on his return from the lawyerís office, Moishe, who thought he was doing a “token” hand over, was confronted with the reality that henceforth he was not the owner, and Allan would be writing the pay check over to him, rather than the other way around; and in fact, his signing authority was removed altogether. This prompted Moishe to write a lengthy letter to Norman, denouncing him for having him do what he did, and declaring that Norman would be punished in the “hereafter” for what he had done to his mother and father. Time, and profits, eventually resulted in a softening of the initial attitude.
Allan Shnier was able to exploit the expansionary times, and the Eastern connection, and Eagle was able to grow over the years, although not at the rate that G.E.Shnier Co grew. Eventually, as a result of a re-organization in 1959, Eagle was merged with G.E.Shnier Co., and Allan Shnier, along with Cecil Shnier, and Philip Shnier, all became equal Shareholders with George, Irving and Norman in G.E.Shnier Co. Ltd. (now Gesco Industries Inc., operating G.E.Shnier Co.). The merger of Eagle with G.E.Shnier Co was contracted to be on a “book value” basis, and the parties anticipated that the “book value” of Eagle would be pretty well 1/5 of the book value of G.E.Shnier Co. Ltd. To the surprise of most of the parties, when the actual accounting was completed, the book value of Eagle turned out to be more than 1/5 of the G.E.Shnier Co. book value and “lucky”Allan Shnier received some cash over and above his proportionate shares in G.E.Shnier Co. Ltd. It was not until some time later that it was discovered that the actual book value of Eagle was “enhanced” by some generous inventory evaluations, and some inconsistencies in the valuation of certain other assets, vis a vis the practice at G.E.Shnier Co Ltd. Eagle became a branch of the G.E.Shnier Co. Ltd. organization, with all major facets of itís operation being directed from the Toronto headquarters, supervised by the National Sales Manager, Jim Goddard, Product Managers, and Administrative Dept Mgrs. As a branch of G.E. Shnier Co. Ltd., it did not make any profit in itsí early years and there is correspondence in the files from George Shnier to Allan, trying to determine why there were no profits and seeking remedies.
Under the above organization, the “hands on” interest of Allan Shnier in G.E.Shnier Co waned. Sarah Investments Ltd. (named after the Matriarch of our family, Sarah Bernstein Shnier) was conceived to acquire and own Real Estate properties tenanted by G.E. Shnier Co. Ltd., and Metropolitan Equities Ltd. was a brain child of Izzie Asper and Norman Shnier intended to be an entrepreneurial entity seeking business opportunities. Met turned out to be relatively inactive as far as operating businesses were concerned and Sarah was merged in to Met, with the surviving entity being Met. Itís headquarters were moved to Winnipeg for administrative convenience, and as it became financially sound from the tenancies of G.E.Shnier Co. Ltd. it began to attract the special interest of Allan Shnier, to whom, along with Cecil Shnier, the management was ceded.
As a matter of interest Ė G.E.Shnier Co. Ltd., for a short period during 1953 and 1954 operated a division called Eagle Rubber & Plastics, in Toronto. It handled plastic kitchen wares such as bread boxes and canisters, and sink mats and dish trays etc., sold to independent hardware stores. It was commenced to take in Ralph Zeldin who was enjoying modest success peddling similar merchandise out of his car, and who needed a premises. Ralph left eventually, to join his brothers in Consolidated Building Ltd., and was replaced by Alan Siposs. When Alan moved on, and we were unable to find a replacement, the business was allowed to run down, and the remaining inventory was sold to Stan Giles, a customer of Irving Shnierís, who ran a surplus outlet in Peterboro.
The history of Met is another chapter.