Bev King has been serving the people of Wawota and area for the last 44 years. She opened the local Robinson’s Store in 1975, in the building that formerly housed Chouquette’s Hardware. They relocated into a brand-new building next door. Robinson’s was a department store that carried school supplies, bedding, fabric, wool, patterns, sewing notions, toys, giftware, shoes and clothing. Eventually they expanded into Redvers and Carlyle.
In spring of 1987 Wawota became King’s Department Store, continuing to serve the community, but with a higher quality of clothing and footwear, eventually dropping the other items. Bev did the majority of the buying in Winnipeg, always with her clientele in mind. She would often see an item and think, “Oh, that would be perfect for so and so”, and into the store it would go.
When asked if she had a mentor in the clothing business, King spoke fondly of Mrs. Wilson who was originally from Wawota. Forty years ago Ellen Wilson ran a dress shop in Carlyle (ironically where 122 Main is now located) and she was someone that Mrs. King looked up to.
Bev, herself, was not as actively involved in the business after her husband Bud’s health issues several years ago and with a building that was built in 1926, it was only a matter of time before King’s would have to consider whether the cost of maintaining the building would be fiscally viable. With the loss of many businesses already in Wawota, it was a very difficult decision to make, but the time had finally come. With the closing imminent, one customer shared her memory of calling Bev on a Sunday, in desperate need of some rubber boots for her visiting grandchildren, who were unprepared for rainy weather. She remembered that Bev had gone down to the store and opened it up so the woman could outfit her grandkids.
Over the years King has seen high waists, no waists, drop waists and padded shoulders come and go, and staff as well. Long and short in the staffing department are Bertha Drumm, who worked for 26 years and Tanya Brisbois who has been there for seven years and will continue on in Carlyle.
Bev’s son, Ken King shares that in 38 years of dealing with a large community of salespeople, it almost unheard of that a community of approximately 750 people could support an operation like Kings’ Wawota, and he would like to give a hats off to the community for their amazing support and the amount of traffic that has been through their store. Wawota‘s community has been very good to his family since the ‘60’s and that community feeling is very obvious when you are there. He plans to continue to work hard to earn that same business in the store in Carlyle.