City Surplus Store Has a Long History in Greater Sudbury
Harvey Gauthier City Surplus Store

Harvey Gauthier started the family business in 1944.

Harvey Gauthier came to Sudbury in 1935 with his wife Rose and two sons where he started working at Inco’s Copper Cliff Refinery. In 1944, he realized there was a market for a store that provided economical furnishings and housewares and decided to open Harvey’s Second Hand Store which was located at 9 Lisgar Street (where the post office/federal building is today) just down the street from the old Mine Mill Union Hall. They lived in an apartment across the street from their store.  It was a great location as thousands of men and their families visited the hall regularly and Harvey’s Second Hand Store catered to these families who were setting up house and needed to do so on a budget. Harvey and Rose bought, sold and exchanged everything from clothing to furniture and housewares. They had a large inventory of both new and used goods at low prices.

City Surplus Lisgar Street

Lisgar Street, in the 1940s used to cross Elm Street where the Rainbow Centre is today. The first location of the family business was in the tallest building on the right at the back of the crowd that had gathered for a rally at the union hall. Greater Sudbury Public Library MK3838

Soon after, they needed more space and moved their store, their living quarters and their two sons Réo and Vital (Vic) to 70 Larch Street, beside the Coulson Hotel in 1946.

Reo Gauthier City Surplus Store

Réo Gauthier was the second generation involved in the family business.

In 1953, Harvey’s Second Hand Store moved to Elm Street, where Roy’s Furniture is today. It was at this time that Réo started working in his father’s store. He had worked at a variety of jobs previously including at the old Radar Station and at Inco before moving to Mexico . His brother Vic joined him at the store in 1954. In 1956 Réo became the store’s manager after his father passed away in 1955 and shortly after changed the name of the store to Harvey’s New and Used Store. Réo diversified the store’s inventory branching out into new men’s work wear and adding a jewellery department as well as continuing to provide families with new and used clothing, hardware and used furniture. Vic managed another store owned by the family called Gauthier’s New & Used Store which was located on Borgia Street. With urban renewal taking place in Sudbury during the 1960s, Borgia Street was demolished and Vic moved took over the management of the Elm Street store which underwent a name change and became Harvey’s New & Used Store which he managed until it closed in 1965. A few years later Vic opened a store on Notre Dame  – Vic’s Surplus and Marine and Lighting (where Overtime Sports Bar is today) which he operated until 1973. Vic passed away in 1994.

City Surplus Store Elm Street

The view from Harvey’s Second Hand Store which moved to Elm Street in 1953 where Roy’s Furniture is today. Thousands of miners passed the store everyday in the streetcars that transported them to work in Copper Cliff. Greater Sudbury Public Library MK1766.

By 1962 Harvey’s Surplus moved to 4 Lisgar Street (where the National Bank is today) and was managed by Réo who gradually phased out the used furniture part of his business. Instead he concentrated on stocking a full line of quality workwear and army surplus items. Mining was a booming industry in the late sixties and seventies and in those days there were few places in Sudbury that could provide quality work garments at a very economical price. Basically, the miners tended to purchase their gear from whomever had the cheapest price. Réo intended that his store would always offer the best price in town.

In the summer of 1979 Réo branched out from the family business and decided to open an art gallery in the basement of City Surplus Store. Réo had started collecting art back in 1969 and was an artist himself. Galerie Gauthier was packed full of paintings on display from his own collection that he had started about ten years previously. He began seriously learning about the art world, attending auctions and meeting artists. His collection grew and gravitated toward Canadian artists from A.Y. Jackson and Arthur Lismer of the Group of Seven to native art predominantly from Manitoulin Island. He particularly wanted to help young artists by giving them the exposure needed to help them sell their creations.

City Surplus Bruno Gauthier

Bruno Gauthier in the store with a painting with an interesting story which you can read at the end of this story.

If there was one product line that defined City Surplus it was the doeskin, red and black checked shirts that were popular during the sixties and still are today. For four years Réo offered these doe skin shirts for $1.99 (later dropping the price to $1.59) The competition’s best price was $2.99. He sold 10,000 of these shirts every year for four years until the manufacturers increased their prices due to the onset of inflation. Miners, prospectors and others loved those shirts, and Réo passed on to his son Bruno a story that showed him how well-known his business had become throughout the north. One night, in the early sixties, seven prospectors were sitting around a campfire in the Blind River area. One man noticed how all of them happened to be wearing the same doe skin shirts. He commented on this and soon learned that they had all purchased their shirts from City Surplus. The man made a point of coming into the store to tell Réo this story.

City Surplus Store Cedar Street

City Surplus Store was located on Cedar Street for 30 years.

Réo passed away in 2003, leaving his wife Marianne and four children.  The management of City Surplus had been taken up by his son Bruno Gauthier in 1996 when Réo retired. Bruno had been working at the store since he was 15 years old on a part time basis and at the age of 26 he had purchased the store from his father. The store, now called City Surplus Store was located on Cedar Street which offered more space in the two floor building as Bruno continued to diversify and grow its product lines. Bruno expanded the selection of outdoor clothing and equipment, built up his network of high quality manufacturers and continued to provide all his customers with the best quality products at the best prices which has been an integral part of the family business for three generations.

Réo passed away in 2003, leaving his wife Marianne and four children.  The management of City Surplus had been taken up by his son Bruno Gauthier in 1996 when Réo retired. Bruno had been working at the store since he was 15 years old on a part time basis and at the age of 26 he had purchased the store from his father. The store, now called City Surplus Store was located on Cedar Street which offered more space in the two floor building as Bruno continued to diversify and grow its product lines. Bruno expanded the selection of outdoor clothing and equipment, built up his network of high quality manufacturers and continued to provide all his customers with the best quality products at the best prices which has been an integral part of the family business for three generations.

City Surplus Store Notre Dame

City Surplus Store located at 685 Notre Dame Ave. is currently holding its final sale in its 73 year history.

In 2014, City Surplus Store made its final move to Notre Dame Ave. Bruno purchased the three storey, 10,000 square foot store and with a staff of 15-20 people, depending on the season, have continued to provide customers with a large inventory of clothing, footwear, camping equipment and so much more. For Bruno, the decision to close the store that had been proudly serving customers for 73 years was not an easy one. For Bruno, the time has come for him to explore and pursue his next venture.

For more information on the closing out sale of City Surplus Store please visit their Facebook page.

Réo Gauthier Bruno CavalloIn 1982, renowned local artist Bruno Cavallo, gave his friend Réo Gauthier a pencil sketch on board he had drawn of the flour mills on Notre Dame  which Réo intended to paint. After Réo had retired from the day-to-day operation of City Surplus Store located on Cedar Street at that time he took up painting again in earnest with all his spare time. Bruno would often drive by his father as he worked on the painting on the side of the road. Years later, as it turned out, Bruno moved City Surplus Store to the exact spot where his father once painted. The painting of the flour mills is located inside the store – you can’t miss it.

“I used to think an ocean of soda existed, but it was just a Fanta sea.” Bec Hill
Other articles you may be interested in:
"What's the difference between a 'hippo' and a 'Zippo'? One is really heavy, the other is a little lighter." Masai Graham

Advertise for as little as $100/week
contact: colin@southsidestory.ca

Contact Us
share@southsidestory.ca