843 Main Street
The view from the roof of this fine tribute to local Winnipeg icon, the late Nick Hill Sr. Photo courtesy of Mandy van Leeuwen.
Location: E side bet. Jarvis & Dufferin; North Face (high)
Occupant: Surplus Direct Liquidation (formerly Kern-Hill Furniture Co-op Ltd.)
District: North End
Neighbourhood: North Point Douglas
Artist(s): Mandy van Leeuwen, Michel Saint Hilaire
Sponsors: Take Pride Winnipeg!, North End BIZ, Neighbourhoods Alive! (Manitoba)
If you live in Winnipeg, unless you've been living under a rock you'll know this address:
843 Main Street is the home of Kern-Hill Furniture where the 'best deals' on furniture
can be had. For years, the city's airwaves have been inundated with straight-talking
voice ads enticing us to Come on Down (!) for best selection, prices and service. On
March 18, 2003 our city lost that original voice and the beloved businessman,
community icon and driving force behind this Winnipeg treasure.
Nick Hill was born and raised on the outskirts of Winnipeg. His family were dairy
farmers and he used to ride a horse to school. Later he lived in the North End and in
East Kildonan where he stayed for the rest of his life. He loved sports and gave
tirelessly, especially to hockey. He almost made the NHL, playing for the Boston Bruins
farm club the Milwaukee Bruins of the International League. During his tenure at
Milwaukee, the team won the Memorial Cup.
He felt he could make more money selling TVs than playing hockey; and so he set up his
first business, Manitoba Television at Dufferin and Derby over 50 years ago. That
operation evolved into the current furniture co-op which has been running for over 35 years.
Like in his ads, he had a 'thumbs-up' attitude to life. Mr. Hill was also a founding and
guiding force in the development of the North Main Mosaic Market Business
Improvement Zone. He served on the Board of Directors for Rainbow Stage; and gave
generously to numerous community causes, especially children's charities, hockey and
bowling. And he did it quietly, without seeking recognition.
Nick Hill, Jr.: "He gave more to people than perhaps they realize, including knowledge. He
was always such a go-getter. He always told us to give back to people; and that you
would receive in return. That was always important. Right up 'till the day he died he was
always promoting something! We didn't realize how 'big' a guy he was until he was
gone. He was a pretty humble guy."
All three of his sons were naturally drawn to the business and each began working there
as soon as they finished school. None of them felt any pressure from their dad to work in
that business: it was simply in their blood. Andy's ('number one son', see photo 3)
distinctive voice is now the voice of the Kern-Hill ads.
Upon hearing the news of his death, the then Mayor Glen Murray released a statement
paying tribute to the 'ol' cowpoke'. An excerpt: "Nick was a civic treasure who stood
proudly among the many Winnipeggers who make our city unique and memorable. We all know
him, or at least we feel we do. That's because on and off the air, Nick's personality connected
with the hearty spirit of Winnipeg people. A no-fuss kind of man, he did his best to serve his
family, his dedicated staff, and his community with a spirit of tenacity and optimism. Nick didn't try
to impress anyone with carefully crafted flash or polish. His authenticity; his way of cutting
through the clutter and noise of our lives and reaching our hearts always amazed me. He was a
natural marketer, and a great friend to many. I think I'll miss Nick most for being a championing
leader who didn't just say he loved this city--he proved it."
Nick Jr.: "We were talking about all of the great Murals around town, and one of our staff
members suggested that wouldn't it be great if we did a Mural. The artists that came
were excellent and they came up with good ideas. It was just something to try to
remember him by and pay a little tribute to him. We're going to hook up a light so it's
visible at night."