Eganville – O’Grady’s Garage has been a part of the local business community for 70 years and the sale last week to the County of Renfrew marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new life at the location still serving the community.

“This is a good thing for the community with the ambulance base coming in too,” said Pat O’Grady on Monday as he took a quick break from working on a vehicle. “And they will also use the office space and everything.”

The sale of the garage building, which not only houses O’Grady Brothers Limited but also O’Grady’s Flowers and Gifts, was made public last Wednesday at Renfrew County council. The purchase price is $1.6 million and the county has also allocated a further $483,200 for the retrofit. As the news spread, Pat and Helen were inundated with well wishes from customers, friends and the community.

“People are happy for us, but a lot of the customers say they will really miss us too,” she said.

The impetus for the sale started over a year ago, when Mr. O’Grady took a flower arrangement to former Bonnechere Valley Mayor Zig Mintha.
“He said, ‘I want to talk to you’ and he said this was an opportunity for us,” he said. “We had been thinking about selling at some point, but this really started us talking about it.”

Mr. Mintha connected Mr. O’Grady with county staff to get the ball rolling, since he was aware there was a need for a new ambulance base in Eganville and felt the O’Grady property was quite suitable.

Knowing the building will serve to make the community a safer place makes the O’Grady’s smile and they also feel it fits in with being a service to the community which was the vision 70 years ago when the business was started by the original O’Grady brothers – Archie (Pat’s dad) and Arnold. As for Pat, he is almost as old as O’Grady’s, being born the year after it was opened. The family lived next door and he, as the second oldest, started helping out pumping gas when he was 12. By 14, he was working on cars helping out. It has been his job ever since.

The last day for the garage and flower shop/gift shop is July 28. With two weddings already booked in July, the flower shop will be functional until then. As well, bookings are busy at the garage for that final tune up at O’Grady’s. 

Until July 28 there is a sale at the gift shop with 50 percent off, but Mr. O’Grady joked the items at the garage are not 50 percent off.

“People can come by to say goodbye too if they would like,” she said.

The turnover to the county will take place at the end of September, giving Mr. O’Grady two months to clear out his equipment from the garage part.

With Helen at 66 and Pat at 69, they are youthful retirees and are looking forward to spending time with their three grandchildren.

“I also have a ‘honey-do list’ at the house,” Mr. O’Grady said. “I also want to spend more time at the hunt camp.”

Their home, which is located behind the garage, is not part of the sale. However, they did sell a lot adjacent to the garage so this enables the ambulances an easy access to Fairfield’s assisted living complex or that direction if needed. In fact, the location of the budling on Highway 41 is a perfect spot for an ambulance to take off from, they both agreed.

“It is ideal,” she said. “We were happy to see something like that coming in. If it was another garage, it might be hard for Pat to see that.”

“They don’t have to go through the traffic lights and it is an easy way to exit coming out,” Mr. O’Grady said.

Great Move for County

Chief Paramedic and Director of Emergency Services with the County of Renfrew Mike Nolan was very pleased to see the purchase of the building and he anticipates it will not just serve as a base for ambulances but other functions, including a Renfrew County Virtual Triage Assessment (VTAC) location. He said for many years there has been a need to find a new ambulance base for Eganville or build one.

“We have been co-located with the township and the fire department for many years,” he said. “With the expansion of the paramedic programs and the Sierra Team operations and the additional ambulances, it turned out well with the purchase of the O’Grady property.”

Working with both Bonnechere Valley council and county council, it was determined this was a good fit for the ambulance base and allowed for the possibility of other uses for the remainder of the building.

“It is likely a good space for expansion of VTAC and other organizations needing space,” he said.

The building will need some work done to make it fit, including the crew quarters and maximizing the garage space for the turning radius of the vehicles. The O’Grady’s would likely be pleased to know a mechanic will also have a bay there to work on the fleet.

There will be several paramedic units housed there, which don’t only include ambulances but also community paramedic response units, so the space is needed, Mr. Nolan said. At the present location space is tight with the fire department so there are times when a vehicle had to be parked outside and with sensitive medical equipment onboard this is far from ideal, the chief said.

“This will allow us to create more consistent vehicle availability and staffing for the whole county,” he added.

With the current system, it is not only paramedics based in Eganville who will use this building but when paramedics come from other areas to fill in gaps, they could use it too. It is a dynamic place, Chief Nolan said.

“Would I have wanted to build new?” he asked. “With the building prices and the availability of tradespeople, it is easier to go with an existing building and make it work for us.”

And when will those ambulances be departing from the former O’Grady’s?

“Let’s get in before the snow flies and do renovations as we go,” Chief Nolan said.

Serving all Renfrew County

Last Wednesday at Renfrew County council, Warden Peter Emon said it is very important to note this is a step to ensure all of the county feels well served, not just the Highway 17 corridor.

“We are a vast space and people are living all over the county,” he said.

People live in more outlying areas like Griffith and Madawaska or Hardwood Lake and need to feel the county is meeting their needs, he pointed out.

“I think we are seen as being too tied to the Highway 17 corridor, so I think by purchasing this property this gives us a place to move some of our community initiatives whether it is paramedics or other divisions outwards so more people have access to them,” he said. “I think this is a much bigger move than we realized today.”

The county has a history of innovation and this is an innovative move with the building allowing for multiple uses, he said. There will be creativity involved in utilizing the building, he added.

“I am very pleased to see this because I think it is important to our whole community. It is important to our paramedic division, but it is certainly important to the community to have us seen in the community trying to establish new programs,” he said.

North Algona Wilberforce Mayor James Brose said the new repurposed facility will allow for the mechanic that works for the county to have more space to service the vehicles, so part of the garage function will continue.

Bonnechere Valley Mayor Jennifer Murphy thanked the staff and O’Gradys for their work on this purchase.

“It is not that Bonnechere Valley wants to kick the paramedics out, but it is certainly going to be a nice new home for them and give us a bit of breathing room for our fire department,” she said. “Also, if you want the OPP just let me know, because we can get them out of their closet too.”

Director of Development and Property Jason Davis said it has been a very long process since February 2022.

“Currently we are in the municipal office shared with the fire service and both programs have outgrown their community needs,” he said.

Due diligence in environmental reports has been done and this fits with the paramedic program as well as VTAC, he said.

For more on the history of O’Grady’s Garage see next week’s issue of the Leader.