Local family harnesses the power of business for 100 years in Killaloe

KILLALOE- The Afelskie name is well known in the valley for its longstanding contribution to the local business community. It is unlikely that the company’s founder, Roman Afelskie, would have had any inclination that the business he started in 1920 would survive to celebrate its 100th anniversary. That this celebration will be a bit subdued due to the pandemic adds a twist of irony to the story; it was the 1919 influenza pandemic that brought about the opportunity for the business to begin in the first place.

In 1915, at the age of 16, Roman Afelskie moved from Hagarty Township to Ottawa to learn the trade of harness making. During the influenza outbreak, a Hagarty harness maker by the name of Mr. Strack died and his business was put up for sale. Roman returned to Hagarty and purchased Mr. Strack’s business in 1920. It was located at 14 Lake Street in Killaloe. By 1923 he was established enough in the world to settle down and get married and on July 31 of that year Roman married Mary Lorbetskie.

1928, Mary’s brother, Joseph John Lorbetskie began doing shoe repairs in the same shop where the harnesses were made. In 1933 Roman purchased the property at 181 Queen Street in Killaloe, where Afelskie’s is still located. The purchase price was a whopping $2,100.

Sadly, in 1937 Roman drowned in Golden Lake, leaving his wife and brother-in-law to carry on the business.

By 1944, after six months of training at Carson Luggage in Ottawa, Roman and Mary’s son, Benny, began working the harness side of the business while his uncle Joe continued to run the shoe repair portion. In 1948 Benny purchased the business from his mother and eventually sold the harness portion of the enterprise to Vern Brose.

Benny had noticed that farmers were beginning use tractors rather than horses and choosing to concentrate on shoes proved to be a good business decision for the Afelskie family. Eventually the store expanded its merchandise to include work clothes. Hydro and lumber workers were among the customers who purchased their goods from Afelskie’s, and by the 1970s the customer base was big enough to warrant a second store being opened in Barry’s Bay.

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