The Templeton’s Story

Templeton’s is proud to be one of the oldest independently owned private businesses in St. John’s.

Still under family direction, we trace our roots to an offer of employment that local merchant James Bryden sent to Robert Templeton of Glenluce, Scotland in 1860. Young Robert accepted, sailed across the Atlantic to St. John’s, worked out his three-year contract as a salesman, and then set up shop for himself. The name “Templeton” appeared for the first time on a St. John’s storefront in 1863.

At first Robert had partners in his dry-goods store, which was located Water Street across from the site of the War Memorial. By 1890, he was sole proprietor and the shop was called simply “Robert Templeton.” Outside the door hung the sign of the red anchor; inside were a selection of goods and groceries imported from Europe and America.

Templeton’s served local customers and shipped goods to retailers and patrons across Newfoundland and Labrador. New products arrived by ship and, like many merchants of the 19th century, we had a house flag. It would be hoisted on Signal Hill when a vessel with goods destined for Templeton’s was approaching St. John’s harbour. The company was also an early adopter of payment in cash (as opposed to fish).

In the early 20th century, Robert Templeton passed the torch to his son Robert Arthur. In 1922, “R.A. Templeton’s” took the bold move of specializing. From that day to this, Templeton’s has been the place to go for wallpaper, as well as paint and floor coverings.

Three of R.A.’s eight children took over from him, and today two of his grandsons—co-owners David Templeton and John Templeton—are in charge on a day-to-day basis. As for the premises, the shop has shifted locations once, moving to the west end of Water Street in the early 1900s (to a shop and warehouse that predated the 1892 fire). We’ve been operating from those building ever since—surviving through downtown’s ups and downs (and ups again), and our own 1978 fire, which destroyed our offices and, unfortunately, some of our historic records. Today, we’re the last of the 19th-century family merchants still operating next to St. John’s harbour.

We’re proud of our historic roots in the province—but that doesn’t mean we’re always looking to the past. We credit our longevity to our ongoing dedication to serving our customers. We’re also proud to say that many of our salespeople have made their careers at Templeton’s. Our flooring manager, Gary Jones, has been with us for more than 40 years, for example, and his father Lew before him was a Templeton’s staff member, too. (Miss Margaret Mackie, who retired in the 1970s, holds the record for staff loyalty—she served customers at Templeton’s for 55 years. Charlie Tucker, our recently retired paint manager, was a close second—he had a 53-year career with us.) The experience and dedication of our staff have played a large role in our success.

We look forward to putting all our experience and knowledge to work for you, helping you find the best products to beautify, update, and care for your home or commercial building.