Meet The Shoemaster

Harold Hague: businessman, volunteer, veteran and mensch

by Vanda Schmöckel

citizen-x

citizenxMeet Harold Hague! Mr. Hague is easily one of the Queen City’s most exemplary citizens, having devoted his life to public service in so many ways; from volunteering with the Red Cross and Canadian Cancer Society, to acting as chairman of the Family Service Bureau of Regina. He even served on the HMCS Cowichan at D-Day in 1944. But he is perhaps best known as the longtime owner and operator of Loggie’s Shoes at 1843 Hamilton St., which just ended its tenure as one of the longest running businesses in city after 107 years of service.

Longtime Reginians will tell you that Loggie’s was the place in the city to go for beautifully crafted, quality footwear. Hague started working at the shop after returning from World War II, and bought the business outright in 1978 (his son Kelly Hague took over in 1989). More recently, Hague helped facilitate Creative City Centre, which occupies the upper floors of 1843 Hamilton St., when he struck a deal with local arts advocate and cultural impresario Marian Donnelly. The formerly empty floors now house space for local craftspeople, designers, and the Queen City Hub — a collaborative work-space for the city’s creative class to come up with even more bright ideas. Hague clearly sees value in providing opportunities and space for new, innovative, and independent ventures downtown (which is definitely something Prairie Dog can get behind).

We have much to thank Mr. Hague for. He leaves a legacy of community involvement, fantastic customer service, and a staunch belief in the people of this city. Prairie Dog spoke to Harold Hague about Regina’s changing style — sartorial and otherwise.

You’ve certainly occupied a prime location downtown over the years. How do you think the retail scene here has changed?

“Do you want me to be truthful or tactful?”

Be truthful.

“Downtown is a bloody mess. It’s unfortunate that the proper planning was not done. The city neglected to control the parking in a manner that would have worked for everybody. People all over the city say: “don’t go downtown, you can’t park, public transit is poor, and traffic is tied up on 11th Ave”. They don’t know whether they can make left turns or right turns. Our country business just gated up. That’s one of the reasons (we closed the shop). The other reason is that both my son and I wanted to retire. Then again, society has changed. Dress footwear is not worn as much as it used to be. People dress casually now. If they go anywhere, they go casual. I went to the hotel the other night, took my wife, and we got dressed up. We looked around — nobody’s dressed up! It’s kind of disappointing [laughs].

I find it disappointing too.

“So, we would have had to change our products and so forth. We could have done that, I suppose, but to invest another five or six hundred thousand dollars at our age didn’t add up.”

If someone wanted to look into opening a new store downtown, are there spaces for independent retail?

“There are probably places, but who would want to [open a business] where people don’t want to come? If you want a vibrant downtown, you must create an image that people are safe when they come down: there’s parking for you, and there’s easy public transportation.”

It’s hard to reconcile photos of what this street looked like in the ’50s and ’60 with what it looks like today. It’s like a different city.

People tell me they miss it. But they say, “why would I come downtown and pay a meter” — which every big city does — “when I can go out [to the suburbs] and I don’t have to worry about parking”. The playing field is not level. And we got no help from the city. Instead of helping us, every year they were raising taxes — every year: up, up, up. I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been a level playing field in the retail business when you give the [big box] stores breaks on taxes, and give services to them at our cost. If you need more sewage and telephone poles and transportation and fire engines and policemen, it costs money. People think it’s free. Nothing is free.

You’ve done a lot of volunteer work over your career too.

When Loggies had a staff of eight, the men were in the Kinsmen, the Lions, Shriners, and the women were in different groups too. That brought business to us, but they also worked on committees and volunteered. The community benefited.

In the old days it was a rule. My staff was full time, so they were secure to some degree. Whereas you find the mode today is part-time — on for four hours and then they’re off. There’s no initiative for people — when they work so many staggered hours — to do volunteer community work.

That’s a really good point that I haven’t heard anyone make before.

Volunteers are hard to find today. We’ve lost the community spirit. That’s one thing that’s hurt — not only downtown, it’s hurt the city. You have to get involved in your community.

What would say to people wanting to make a life in the core of the city?

“I live downtown. It’s great for me. I love living downtown and I always have lived downtown. It’s great — if you get the services. What we need is a grocery store down here.”

2014-09-04

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