A Vancouver institution of all things outdoors is closing its doors permanently in November.
3 Vets co-owner Jerry Wolfman told the Courier Wednesday that the 70-year-old, family-run business has fallen prey to a few factors: burgeoning property tax bills, the proliferation of big-box retailers and the online marketplace.
“It’s incredibly difficult to be competitive and make a profit when overhead is so high,” Wolfman said. “Our profit margins diminished and our cost of running the operation increased.”
Located at Yukon Street and West Sixth Avenue, the property has been sold to a developer. The deal was finalized in early April. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed, and Wolfman doesn’t know what the developer intends for the site.
“I have no idea — I really don’t care,” he said. “I care more so about my clientele and myself. What happens afterwards is really not concerning to me.”
City of Vancouver and B.C. Assessment data notes the property was assessed at roughly $12 million this year. It was assessed at just under $8 million in 2016. Wolfman said his property tax bill this year was about $90,000 and roughly $70,000 in 2016. Those figures signalled the death knell.
“The shock hit me when I was at a couple trade shows recently in [Las Vegas] and I didn’t buy anything for the upcoming winter season,” he said. “I’ve got suppliers calling me, some are shocked, some are excited. But our customers are sad.”
About 15 employees are affected by the sale, some of whom have been with the shop for 40 years. Alongside his brother Keith, Jerry runs the shop founded by his father, uncle and a mutual friend in 1947. All three were veterans of the Second World War — hence the name 3 Vets — and the business model was initially centred entirely around military surplus supplies.
The first iteration of 3 Vets was located at 832 Main St., but the family company was forced to move in the late ’60s due to upgrades to the Georgia Viaduct. The business has been at its current location since 1968. Wolfman doesn’t recall the initial purchase price, but said the city gave his parents concessions as part of the deal because of their forced re-location: a retail license was given despite the area being zoned for industrial, and the land’s price tag was reduced.
The new digs, coupled with the Wolfman brothers’ wanderlust and appreciation of the outdoors, swayed their parents to move towards outdoor equipment in the late ’60s. To this day, camping gear and outdoor footwear have been the biggest sellers year over year.
“Our dad had a philosophy of every customer that you come face to face with is the most important customer you’ll ever deal with,” Wolfman said. “We were taught to give everything you can possibly give to him or her.”
VIDEO: The 3 Vets parking lot is a regular stomping ground for a pair of geese named Grey and Goose by the staff. As the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood at 6th and Yukon continues to develop, it's one of the few "safe spaces around here where they can hang."