‘Childhood place to be’: Zellers’ return sparks fond memories among Canadians eager for his comeback

Zeddy the bear. Dining at the Pan. These are just a few of the core memories Canadians have of shopping at what was once Canada’s iconic retailer, Zellers.

The Hudson’s Bay Company, which owns the Zellers brand, announced Wednesday its plan to bring the department store back inside some current HBC stores, as well as online, next year.

The announcement was met with enthusiasm among past customers who are eager to relive the nostalgia of walking the Zellers aisles again. Canadians wrote to CTVNews.ca about their fondest memories of Zellers stores and what they most look forward to when they return.

For many, Zellers played an important role in their childhood upbringing. Some recalled the essential part of the Zellers shopping experience: dining in the store’s restaurant. “The Skillet,” later renamed the “Zellers Family Restaurant,” was a 1950s-themed restaurant that offered shoppers a place to eat in some locations.

Dong Ngo of Halifax, NS recalled dining at the 1950s-themed restaurant as a child, then browsing the clothing aisles.

“I have vivid memories of being a little kid sitting in most of the shopping cart as my mom drove me around the store. From the food to the chauffeur around the store, Zellers was the ideal place for childhood,” Ngo wrote to CTVNews.ca in an email on Wednesday.

One reader described the restaurant as a “special sight,” citing its neon lights with 1950s singers playing in the background.

“With all the chrome and neon lights; the signature theme from the ’50s always blew my mind, and the mood was always perfected with the right music from that era, often Elvis Presley, Big Bopper, Buddy Holly”, Tyson Bastien of Gatineau, Que. wrote.

The department store also carried a variety of Canadian designer clothing brands such as Alfred Sung, some shoppers said.

“I miss Zellers stores, they were a Canadian company targeting Canadians. It would be great to see them return,” wrote Alexandra Bickerton from Hamilton, Ontario.

Zellers’ mascot, “Zeddy the Teddy Bear,” was the friendly face that most kids growing up in the ’80s and ’90s remember in the toy aisle. Some stores also had a small mechanical Ferris wheel that children could ride.

“When I was younger, I would go to Zellers with my mom and get excited to ride Zeddy’s mini Ferris wheel when we got there,” said Whitney Echum of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Past employees also shared their enthusiasm for the department store renaissance.

“It was a great place to work with loyal customers. Large inventory at great prices. I loved my time working at Zellers,” wrote Colleen Williams of Mississauga, Ontario, a former cashier.

A former restaurant manager said that working in the store’s dining room was one of the “highlights” of his life.

In 2013, most Zellers stores across Canada were closed with only a few locations remaining open as liquidation outlets until 2020. However, last year Zellers resurfaced after Hudson’s Bay Co. set up pop-up stores in its large warehouses in Ontario and Quebec.

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