After a year without their neighbourhood landmark, a group of former customers are on the verge of reopening an 85-year-old hardware store in Winnipeg's North End.

Since Pollock Hardware closed last year, residents and customers have been trying to raise enough money to buy the store and operate it as a co-op.

At least one of their purchase offers was rejected — but now, a tentative deal is on the table, and the group thinks the store could reopen by spring.

Tom Simms, volunteer with the interim board of directors for the Pollock Hardware Store Co-op said the group is pushing for a five-year lease-to-purchase agreement.

The group, he said, is using a combination of equity capital from contributing members and loan capital from a credit union. The co-op is also in partnership with the provincial government's Community Development Tax Credit Program, which will give investors a 30 per cent tax credit.

He said the agreement gives the co-op time to gain its footing and get "the little hardware store that could" off the ground.

"Once we feel we're solid, we can look at entertaining an offer to purchase again," Simms said. "This approach allows us to get everything off the ground right away."

'Niche' market

Co-operation and the community's involvement in the decision is integral to their approach, said Simms.

"We're working on a way that we're always going back to the community on how this proceeds.… We'll bring the tentative agreement before our members and once they ratify the deal, we're off and running," he said.

Co-op members will vote on the plan at a meeting on Saturday.

Competition from big-box stores like Rona and Home Depot doesn't dissuade Simms and the co-op members.

"There is a very strong local interest of customers and residents that want to keep the local hardware store open," said Simms.

The store on north Main Street closed last year when its owners retired after 15 years of owning the business, which has called the neighbourhood home since the 1920s.

"They had a little niche there that was working and we think we can expand on that niche," said Simms. "No doubt it's not going to be easy, but I think if we stay within that little niche that they've demonstrated at Pollock's then, it's viable."