Capital Iron started as a scrap business. The company was founded in 1934 by Morris L. Greene. He believed that there was potential for a scrap business in Victoria. He had a considerable knowledge of ships, which combined with the company’s waterfront location, enabled him to build up his business by dismantling ships for scrap. Between 1934 and 1971 the company dismantled nearly 100 ships of various sizes.
During the second world war when industry was busy supplying goods for the war effort and little for civilians, Capital Iron was a popular spot to pick up salvaged or surplus items. Following the war, Capital Iron took on a major challenge and bought fourteen frigates and a minesweeper for scrapping. Salvage from the ships provided hard – to –find items for years.
But the problem with selling surplus is that you don’t have complete lines of anything. To fill in the gaps Capital Iron started carrying regular hardware lines.
By 1961 the retail business was growing dramatically and gobbling up more and more of the available space in the buildings. By 1971 the scrap business was no longer viable so that it was shut down and all efforts were set on building the retail trade.
The retail business continued to flourish in the downtown Victoria store and in 1988 a branch store was opened on Bevan Avenue in Sidney. Over the next few years two others were opened but eventually closed.
At the start of 1997 Capital Iron was sold to Mike Black and two other senior managers.This started a period of rebuilding Capital Iron. New product lines, a fresh look in store and offshore buying all contributed to the company growing in popularity. September of 2012 saw the company come full circle as Mike bought out both business partners and the business is back in the family. As to the future of the company, Mike’s daughter, Kylie, is currently completing a BComm in Retail Management with the intention of carrying on the family tradition.
A History of the Building
The main store in downtown Victoria is housed in two buildings. A stone structure which was built in 1863 and the 1976 – 1977 addition. This addition is clad in enameled steel and set back so as to impinge as little as possible upon the older building. The brick building on the left, an addition to the mill in 1890 is no longer used by the company.
The stone building consisted of two floors, a lower wharf level floor, and an upper street level floor. The roof was flat, sloping towards the harbour side. The building was one of the first built along Store St. after the removal of the first Johnson St. bridge permitted ships to enter the upper harbour. At some time before 1885 the roof was replaced by a hipped roof. The lower level was paved with large flat pieces of sandstone on clay.
Few of these stones survived whole over the next century, but several examples are still visible in the store. Other points of interest are the longitudinal beams, 120 feet (36.5 metres) with but one joint, the cast iron columns in the basement, and the iron shutters – of which the only one to survive is best seen from part way up the main stairs to the second floor.
In the 1950’s the facades of the two main buildings were “modernized” with new windows and a coat of stucco. In 1980 under the guidance of company president, Ronald Greene, and Architect, Claude H Maurice, the facades of both older buildings were restored to the 1890’s appearance. The restoration was recognized by the 1982 Regional Award of Heritage Canada, and the “Award of Merit” for 1981 of the Hallmark Society.
Capital Iron is proud to be a member of:
- Better Business Bureau
- Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce
- Downtown Victoria Business Association
- Shop Local Victoria
- Canadian Association of Family Enterprise
- Hearth, Patio & BBQ Association