A historic Calgary warehouse known to have just about anything is set to shut its doors at the end of the month.
Ribtor Warehouse started off as a hardware and farming machinery shop in 1949, owned by Joel Lipkind’s father. It slowly evolved into the mishmash of rare goods it is today and is now owned by Lipkind.
“Eventually, some people asked him about camping supplies as part of the hardware business and that’s basically how the sporting goods part of it started,” said Lipkind.
The shop features military surplus goods, camping and hunting gear, and old hospital supplies. Some of Lipkind’s favourite items include old adding machines from the 1960s, an oil cabin heater from a Lancaster bomber and something his father purchased by accident.
“He thought he was getting heavy-duty wire cutters. Turns out, he ended up getting these things [that] were used for pulling behind boats to snap the cables on underwater mines,” said Lipkind.
“Customers used to say, ‘If I can’t find it anywhere, I would come down to Ribtor and find it,’” said Lipkind.
Customers have been flocking to the store in recent days — some for the first time and others their whole lives.
“This is my peaceful place that I come to find the odds and ends that I’m missing in my life, and I’ve definitely come here so often that I have a lot of Ribtor in my life,” said James Ford, a lifelong customer. “It’s very sad, I’m going to miss it.”
The store also has a history of working with professionals. Lipkind said movie set designers have been raiding the shelves for years.
One of the more noteworthy films that used Ribtor is Little Big Man with Dustin Hoffman.
“We also used to supply a lot of movies back in the Kline era, lots of westerns and that being produced around Calgary,” said Lipkind. “They would often come and get stuff from us if they needed an old general store.”
The goods at Ribtor have also helped people during a natural disaster.
When Calgary EMS were gathering supplies to send victims of the 2004 Indonesia tsunami, Lipkind stepped up. His father had acquired thousands of hand water pumps and firefighting gear, which he ended up donating.
“They said, ‘You know, we could really use some of those because, in some of the areas, there’s no power,’” said Lipkind.
According to Tom Samson, chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, they were able to send two 40-foot containers to help the victims.
“If you walk through Ribtor, there’s almost everything that you need if you’re ever stranded on a desert island and that’s essentially what happened to these folks. They were in terrible shape,” said Samson.
Lipkind’s two main employees have a combined roughly 90 years with the company. He said they’re ready to retire, causing him to close up shop as of Jan. 31.
However, the legacy of the Calgary institution will likely live on.
“Yesterday, we had a whole bunch of young people come in, which was kind of neat to see, and a lot of them would come up to me and say, ‘My dad used to bring me down to this store, and we would walk the aisles,’” said Lipkind.
The store is planning on hosting a blow-out sale during the last week or two of January. After that, if there is any merchandise left, it will go to scrap dealers or to the landfill.
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