Last Friday morning was just like the old days at Garibaldi Building Supplies in Function Junction.
Well worn contractor-types trooped through the automatic doors as trucks, vans and other well-worn contractor-type vehicles filled the parking lot, loaded with well-worn power saws and other expensive tools.
Inside, the contractor-types browsed over rows of brand new, discounted power tools as they entered GBS for the first time since receiver Gary Young changed the locks on the door Jan. 3 and locked the store up tight. Young says everything in the store is on sale until Sunday and the stock in the store will be sold bolt by bolt and nut by nut if necessary.
But as the stock on the shelves of the Whistler store disappears the story surrounding the demise of GBS is unlikely to ever be completely told.
People lined up to get inside the store — the subject of countless hours of conjecture and endless rumour . They came inside and spent their cash — money that Young says will go toward paying off the "just shy of $10 million" the company owes to secured and unsecured debtors.
Young says the doors of the 30-year-old chain, with stores in Prince George, LIllooet, Whistler and Squamish, were closed when the Bank of Nova Scotia — the largest secured debtor — exercised its option to have the assets of the company seized because of $6 million it was owed.
Garibaldi Building Supplies Ltd. is wholly owned and operated by Vancouver-based Vencorp Investments Ltd. Vencorp holds the second largest secured debt in the seized company — $1.6 million.
A Vencorp spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
"The first money we recover will go to the bank (of Nova Scotia) to pay them out and the next payout will go to Vencorp," Young says. "The balance of any other money recovered will be distributed to the unsecured debt holders."
The unsecured portion of the debt, $2.3 million, is held "by and large" by suppliers, Young says.
While interest in the sale of the stock at the Whistler store is high, Young says interest in purchasing the rest of the company is high as well.
"I would expect we will sell all four stores either to the same company or to four different companies," he says. Young would not reveal how many parties are interested in acquiring any or all of the GBS stores or what the names of any interested companies are.
"If someone doesn't acquire these stores someone else will come into the market place," Young says. "Whistler requires a hardware store or a place to buy a few boards or plywood."
A necessity, maybe. An easy business to keep afloat, well, times are tight Young says.
"Basically this is a very competitive market and all of the fluctuations in the lumber prices last year and all of the rule changes that go with that game are tough. GBS just didn't survive it," Young says.
Another factor in the downfall was the unwillingness of larger contractors to support local lumber suppliers. While large contractors based in Vancouver came up to Whistler to do millions of dollars worth of construction, not a lot of the lumber was bought here.
Although Young is confident the hardware and supply store will sell, insiders in the lumber industry say selling the lumberyard portion of the business may not be so attractive.
Outside workers at GBS were members of the International Woodworkers Association and Gerry Crofford, vice president of operations for Revelstoke Home Centres in the Lower Mainland, says buying a union lumberyard in this competitive market may not be feasible.
"Looking at acquiring the unionized outside operations would be more difficult than if they were non-union, but each case has an individual situation," Crofford says.
As larger chains and companies start getting into the home and lumber supply business, the impact will be passed on to small, local lumberyards.
"The bigger stores and chains have an influence in just about every market so whether there's a Wal Mart in your town or not, you are going to see Wal Mart prices, and that's especially true in the lumber business," Crofford says. "If you can't reflect those prices because your overhead is too high, you can't compete."