Growing up poor during the depression, Jim Ratsoy went on to establish many businesses.
Business was in Ratsoy’s blood
Published 2:34 PST, Fri November 26, 2021
Last Updated: 10:48 PST, Fri November 26, 2021
After heading several startups, Richmond man now enjoys huge vintage car collection
Many know Jim Ratsoy as one of Richmond’s successful businessmen and former owner of his family auto mall in the heart of the city. He’s also known as a respected collector of some 130 vintage cars including classics from the 1940s and 1950s.
His story begins as a man who had very little growing up as a boy during the depression, but he created a lot, gave back more, started businesses in a number of provinces, and has made Richmond his home for over 45 years.
Jim was born in 1932 and raised on a farm in Smoky Lake, Alta. In 1937 his parents lost their farm during the depression, moved into town and opened a small second-hand store, living in a small room at the back of the store. Alberta Poultry was looking for someone to operate an “egg candling” business so his mom took on the challenge which allowed the family to move into the second floor of the building. His dad bought a truck to take the trappers’ furs to sell in Edmonton and deliver milk from the farmers to the creamery. He would pick up old abandoned cars and trucks and bring them back to Smoky Lake where he and a mechanic restored the vehicles.
In 1947, his dad was offered a Mercury franchise, then switched to the Chevrolet franchise and later added the Pontiac and Buick franchise. In 1948, his mom expanded the second-hand store to include furniture and hardware making her a successful business woman well before her time.
In 1954 Jim married Marcia and over the next 15 years added four children to their family. In 1957 his dad died and at the age of 25 Jim took over the family automotive business. In 1960, with the help of an auctioneer, he dissolved the car business, leaving his mom sole owner of the Ratsoy hardware and furniture store.
In 1960 Jim moved to Edmonton and opened a used car business. In 1961 he sold his business and invested in a holiday trailer franchise. In 1966 he sold the business and moved to Wetaskiwin and partnered in a Chrysler dealership then sold his interest in 1969 and moved back to Edmonton and opened a used car business. In 1969, GM wooed Jim to Winnipeg where he took ownership of a Chevrolet Oldsmobile dealership in downtown Winnipeg. In 1976 GM once again wooed Jim to Richmond for a new challenge to open a Pontiac Buick dealership. Jim and his family settled down, making Richmond their home to this day.
In 1976 Jim bought the AMC dealership on No.3 Road at Lansdowne and changed it to Lansdowne Pontiac Buick, setting up parts and service on Cedarbridge. In 1979 he found a larger property at Minoru and Alderbridge allowing him to move everything under one roof leaving the Truck franchise on No.3 Road. In 1983 Jim opened a Chrysler dealership on No.3 Road. In 1984 he added a Hyundai dealership on Lansdowne and No.3 Road. In 1984 he purchased property on Minoru near Ackroyd and moved the Lansdowne Pontiac and Buick business. In 1986 he purchased adjacent land adding the Cadillac franchise. In 1988 Jim added another business on Minoru; Lansdowne Saturn, Isuzu, Saab and in 1993 moved the Lansdowne Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep to a new location on Minoru.
We would be remiss if we didn’t talk about Jim’s passion for vintage cars; some 130 classics from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. His team re-stored and brought life back to everything Jim bought. Jim then built a massive showroom that protected these classics but also his collection of player pianos, instruments, juke boxes and hundreds of memorabilia. This showroom is full of history and memories of the many fundraising events for charities.
Asked if he’d do it all over again, Jim said: “You bet I would. If I could go back in time knowing what I know today I would do some things different.”
Video of interview at www.richmondsentinel.ca/videos
• Florence Gordon is a guest writer to the Richmond Sentinel