This year celebrates the remarkable 90th in which the Tynan family has been in business in this city, and it’s fascinating that it came about thanks to an offer by Timothy Eaton. Today the company is run by Maureen Tynan but it was her grandfather, John, who answered the call by the founder of Eaton’s department stores, guaranteeing a job to any Irishman who moved to Canada.
John and his brothers left the family dairy farm and travelled to Vancouver where he was given a position with Eaton’s, working with the famous mail-order catalogue department that reached out to small towns and rural communities with a money-back guarantee on all goods.
He did well and in 1929 made another big decision to relocate to Calgary, a “land of opportunity” where he thought he could run his own business. Tynan’s was opened as a small furniture manufacturing plant on 11th Street in Inglewood.
By 1934, the firm was doing well enough that John was able to buy his own building on 11th Avenue S.W., and later bought houses along the half-block to build additional space that promoted the name of Tynan and the home of its famous Kant-Sag brand of furniture, which used a method of tightening the webbing so it didn’t ever sag.
The quality of the furniture meant that it “lasted forever,” so in 1978 Tynan’s started an in-house reupholstering department.
By 1964, Tynan’s was run by son Bill, who became known as one of the city’s most respected businessmen who had built up a company selling to department stores from Vancouver Island to the western part of Ontario. Bill fully retired in 1981 and that year he sold the property and relocated out of the Beltline district into Phillips Park on 61st Avenue S.E. By then, eldest son Russ had taken over running the business.
The family got involved with the city’s Olympic bid in 1984. Russ and his sister, Maureen, attended the Los Angeles Summer Olympics to learn about handling volunteers. Russ left the family firm to work full time for the Calgary Winter Olympics to build its volunteer program and be responsible for venue operations.
Maureen continued to work on the Olympic bid with key sponsors and downhill skiing — she is still a volunteer with the World Cup — but took on full responsibility in running the firm. However, since the downturn in the 1980s she has focused on custom manufacturing and reupholstery. She had taken an interior design course and says she wanted to deal with individuals rather than stores; most of the staff had retired although some her craftsmen still enjoy working piecework in her Foothills plant, and Mila, whose mother started as a seamstress in the old factory, is still her “right arm” in the Phillips Park showroom.
Today, Tynan’s accepts custom furniture orders and is a mecca for interior designers as a resource centre where they can select from its huge inventory of fabrics. Reupholstery forms a key element of the business, keeping Maureen busy with customers in need of a new look to their favourite pieces of furniture.
It’s a cosy showroom where the walls are covered with the history of the 90-year-old company of which she is so proud.
And Maureen is also still busy volunteering as a member of the Chinook Rotary Club since 1992, and a longtime member of the Stampede Caravan Committee.