'The childhood place to be': Zellers' return sparks fond memories among Canadians eager for its comeback
Zeddy the bear. Dining at the Skillet. These are just some of the core memories Canadians have of shopping at what once was Canada’s iconic retailer, Zellers.
The Hudson’s Bay Company, which owns the Zellers brand, announced its plan on Wednesday to bring back the department store within some current HBC stores, as well as online, next year.
The announcement was met with excitement among past customers who are eager to relive in the nostalgia of browsing Zellers’ aisles again. Canadians wrote to CTVNews.ca about their fondest memories of Zellers stores and what they’re looking forward to the most in their return.
For many, Zellers played a large role in their childhood upbringings. Some recalled the quintessential part of the Zellers shopping experience: dining at the in-store restaurant. “The Skillet,” which was later renamed as the “Zellers family restaurant,” was a ‘50s-themed diner that offered shoppers a place to eat at in some locations.
Dong Ngo from Halifax, N.S. recalled dining at the ‘50s themed diner as a child, followed by browsing the clothes aisles.
“I have vivid memories of being a young child and sitting in the large part of the shopping cart as my mother took me around the store. From the food to being chauffeured around the store, Zellers was the childhood place to be,” Ngo wrote to CTVNews.ca in an email on Wednesday.
One reader described the restaurant as a “special sight,” recounting its neon lights with ‘50s crooners playing in the background.
“With all the chrome and neon lights; the trademark '50s theme would always make my eyes bug out in awe, and the ambiance was always perfected with proper music from said era, often Elvis Presley, Big Bopper, Buddy Holly,” Tyson Bastien of Gatineau, Que. wrote.
The department store also carried a variety of Canadian designer clothing brands such as Alfred Sung, some shoppers said.
“I miss Zellers stores, they were a Canadian company geared towards Canadians. It would be great to see them return,” Alexandra Bickerton of Hamilton, Ont., wrote.
Zellers’ mascot “Zeddy the teddy bear” was the friendly face most children growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s remember at the toy section. Some store locations also had a small mechanical ferris wheel that children could ride.
“When I was younger, I would go to Zellers with my mom and I would get excited to get on the Zeddys mini ferris wheel when we got there,” said Whitney Echum of Thunder Bay, Ont.
Past employees also shared their excitement for the department stores’ revival.
“It was such a great place to work with loyal customers. Great inventory at great prices. I loved my time working at Zellers,” Colleen Williams of Mississauga, Ont., a former cashier, wrote.
A past restaurant manager called working at the in-store diner one of the “highlights” of their life.
In 2013, most Zellers stores across Canada were closed and only a few locations remained open as liquidation outlets until 2020. However, last year Zellers gained a resurgence after the Hudson’s Bay Co. set up pop-up shops in its department stores in Ontario and Quebec.
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