Growing up Connie Cosman, her sister Shirley Keleher and their three other siblings always wanted a pony.
Not an uncommon request from children to their parents, but one that is rarely met with more than a laugh. Unless you’re a Keleher kid that is.
When their father Wilfrid arrived home with a pony to the delight of his children, he carried with him not one saddle, but two. More than just a family pet, Wilfrid, who Connie calls a ‘a real wheeler and dealer’, saw an opportunity.
“He had one saddle for the pony and another to sell,” Cosman said.
“He was a real entrepreneur. Back in those days you could start a business that way.”
And so he did. Out of the family home he began selling horse equipment.
“We’d get a lot of people who would show up on their horses,” Cosman laughed.
“They’d bring their guitars and we’d sing and have some laughs.”
The family would then move to a house on Townline Road, where the business would be run out of a big farm kitchen. Looking to expand, they added an addition onto the property and opened a storefront.
In the 1980s, the business began to change.
“When the recession hit in the 1980s, a lot of people weren’t able to afford their horse,” Cosman said.
“So we started selling more western apparel and less horse equipment. We eventually started selling motorcycle apparel, as well.”
Then Petro Canada came knocking and were looking to buy the land the house was located on, which was spread across 12 acres. The price was right and the family sold, but it left them scrambling for a new place for their business to call home.
That’s when they found their current location at 154 King St. E. Having been at their first two houses over 50 years, and their current location for 10 years, Cosman and sister and co-owner Shirley have decided it’s time to close the doors for good.
“My father was the front man and my mother was the hard worker,” Cosman said.
“If it wasn’t for them we would have never been able to do this. My parents were always fair. They taught us to be honest and to respect people. My dad loved the horses and for him to be able to turn it into a business made him very happy."
Cosman and Keleher aren’t closing their doors because they have to, they’re doing it because they want to retire. Going out on their terms is something they're happy to be able to do.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t miss the business and the people they’ve met along the way.
“I’m so grateful for our customer’s loyalty and their friendship,” Cosman said.
“I’m going to miss the people and the staff. We have had families who brought their children in, and then that person brought their children in. We've also been blessed over the years, and today, with loyal, trustworthy, smart, caring staff, friends and family. We really got to know these people and they’re the reason we continued on for over 60 years.”
The official closing date for the store has been set for either November 15 or December 15. Until then, inventory will be on sale and customers are encouraged to make one last voyage into the storefront to share their memories.
For more information on Keleher’s visit kelehers.ca.