Entrepreneurs and Innovators - Part 6

On now until February 2, the Galt Museum & Archives presents an exhibit celebrating southwestern Alberta businesses, inventors and researchers. Entrepreneurs and Innovators features photos from the Galt Archives's holdings, and can be seen in the lower gallery, outside the archives. This blog post is the sixth instalment in a series based on the exhibit.

This week's post features two Lethbridge businesses that were successful despite the adversity faced by their operators in prior enterprises, though under very different conditions. Ryutaro Nakagama lost his business on the B.C. coast during the Second World War as a result of the Canadian government's policy of relocating and interning Japanese-Canadians in the province. George Baalim had run an unsuccessful real estate business in Calgary, but he established successful businesses in auto sales, oil refining, and auto repairs.

Ryutaro and Nobuko Nakagama, 1958. Courtesy of Ken Nakagama.

Ryutaro and Nobuko Nakagama, 1958. Courtesy of Ken Nakagama.

Nakagama's Japanese Food and Giftware

Ryutaro Nakagama lost his property and the grocery business that he had operated for over a decade in Steveston, British Columbia when the Canadian government relocated Japanese-Canadians to southern Alberta in 1942 to work in sugar beet production. Following the war, he worked to rebuild what he had lost despite the hardships imposed on him and his family. He bought a truck and began buying products such as tofu and noodles produced in cottage industries among the Japanese Canadians in the area and peddling them to customers on various farms. In 1947, Nakagama was the first Japanese-Canadian to open a store in Lethbridge.  He and his wife Nobuko operated their store on 1st Avenue South. In 1955 the business relocated to its present location on 2nd Avenue South. Over 65 years later, Nakagama’s is now managed by Ryutaro’s son Ken and continues to offer Japanese foods, kitchenware and gifts to its customers. 

Baalim Motors, 1939.   Courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: P19790092000

Baalim Motors, 1939.

Courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: P19790092000

George Baalim

During the recession prior to WWI, Arthur George Baalim lost his real estate business in Calgary.  He then founded the first automobile dealership in Lethbridge in 1916. Baalim Motor Company Limited sold Chevrolet models. The dealership soon prospered as cars became more affordable and owning one became an achievable goal for the average person. By 1919, his business was so successful that Baalim had a new brick building constructed with space for showing cars, auto repair and parts sales. In 1945, Baalim shifted the focus of his business from car sales to repairs and wholesale parts sales, renaming the business Baalim Wholesale Limited. Baalim also owned the Northern Lights Oil Refinery east of the fairgrounds. Though Baalim passed away in 1971, the wholesale business continued to carry his name until at least the late 1970s.

By Sven Andreassen

Sven Andreassen is a recent graduate of the University of  British Columbia's Master of Archival Studies program. He volunteered in the Galt Archives in 2013  and curated this exhibit.