Plans to rebuild after fire destroys Taylor Auction Mart in Melita

Fire may have destroyed much of the building at Taylor Auction Mart last week but it will not be the end of the business. While many things still remained uncertain when The New Era spoke with owner, Brock Taylor, on Tuesday evening, one thing was certain.

“We are rebuilding,” he said of the business that he owns in partnership with his wife, Kelly, and parents, Ross and Pat Taylor.

The smoke may have still be hanging in the air when Taylor was making calls to construction companies and getting plans in place.

“I guess I called on a few favours I didn’t even know I had out there,” he said with a chuckle but then turned serious again.

“If things go according to plan we are hoping to be up and running by mid to late August.”

Melita Fire Department was called to the business north of Melita on Highway #83 at approximately 6:00 p.m. Saturday night. With additional assistance from Pierson Fire Department, the crews were able to contain the blaze but fire destroyed the main building of the Auction Mart that has stood in the community since 1971.

“The building and barn is gone,” said Taylor. “The feed and water pens are all still good.”

He and his father had loaded the last truck with cattle Saturday morning leaving the building vacant of animals and people when the fire started.

“There was no one hurt,” said Taylor, emphasizing the bottom line.
“There were no injuries and no cattle were on site. Everything we lost is replaceable.”

The business is now moving into a slower time of year as farmers head to the fields to tend to seeding, which will mean less disruption in services and make the cleanup and reconstruction easier.

“This is kind of our slow down time of year,” said Taylor. “If it was six weeks ago it would have been a different story.”

Official cause of the fire was still being determined at press time but the business owner said progress was being made with the investigation and with the insurance company and he felt things
would go smoothly. The family is appreciative of the assistance they have received from the community.

“The community support through this has been great,” said Taylor. “ You couldn’t ask for a better community to live in and do business in.”

Taylor Auction Mart buys and processes cattle from a large surrounding area, shipping the majority to the United States.

Auction sales were suspended a few years ago as the focus of the business changed and during the busy season eight to ten loads of cattle will be shipped out each day. In
addition to the four family members who own and operate the business, six to eight main staff are on the payroll with additional staff hired during peak periods.

Although the fire has changed their focus at the moment, the owner was already making plans for the reconstruction of the building.

“We won’t have to look for work to do this summer,” Taylor said with a chuckle. “We know what we’ve got to do now”

Jim Downey and his wife, Linda, built Melita Auction Mart in 1971.

“I was in the farm and feedlot business and every time I’d go to a market I’d see a lot of people hauling cattle,” said Downey, in an interview last week.

“We thought it would be good to have the same service in our own community.”

A survey of southwestern Manitoba and south eastern Saskatchewan proved something Downey had suspected, the local area had the largest concentration of cattle
in Manitoba and a viable business could be built in Melita.

“It was a booming success right off the beat,” said Downey.

The October 21, 1971 edition of The New Era newspaper reported, “The first sale of cattle at the new Melita Auction Mart drew a capacity crowd, Monday, October 18...with the sale of 688
head of cattle.”

The article goes on to read, “Mr. Powne had the honours of auctioning the first butcher steer through the ring, from D. Bird’s stock farm at Elva, weighing 950 pounds and selling at a record price of 48 cents. This animal was sold to Melita Motors, Melita.”

“Two carloads of cattle were bought by High Jackson of Souris and Jack Renwick of Coulter. These were shipped by train to Ontario buyers. This is the first time cattle
have been shipped by rail in some considerable time, from Melita, with the balance of the Ontario orders shipped by transfer. This is highly significant of the way Melita is ‘growing and going’ to beat ’71!

Congratulations from all privileged to live in this area!” Among the staff listed in the article is yard manager Ross Taylor, who would later purchase the business.

Downey said the business was a success thank to the support of his family and the community of Melita.

“We had lots of local support,” he said.

The Auction Mart attracted a lot of additional business to the community and employed numerous people throughout the years.

“It really was a community affair,” said Downey. “The farmers and business people treated us very well. We developed some great friends through the business.”

When Downey was elected to the local seat in the Manitoba Legislature and was appointed Minister of Agriculture in the late 1970s, he felt a change in the business was needed. The Auction
Mart was leased out for a few years before it was sold to a community entity and later purchased by the Taylor family about 12 years ago.

Jim and Linda were on their way home Saturday night when they saw the smoke from the fire. The couple arrived just as the Melita Fire Department was getting to the scene and watched the business they built go up in flames.

“A lot of hard work and effort went into that business and we had a bit of a nostalgia moment watching the fire,” said Downey.

When The New Era spoke with Downey he hadn’t heard the Taylor family’s plans for the future but will be pleased to learn that they intend to rebuild.
“I wish them well and am happy to know there were no people or animals hurt in the fire,” he concluded.

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