Harbourmaster Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary

March 24, 2015

CBurvilleHarbourmaster02MThe Harbourmaster is today [Mar 24] celebrating its 40th anniversary in the luggage and leather goods business.

The Harbourmaster, founded by Sheilagh Robertson, first opened its doors on March 24, 1975 on the upper level of the Washington Mall. Today, it is located at the Washington Lane entrance of the mall opposite La Trattoria.

Ms Robertson, a former science teacher at The Berkeley Institute, decided to open Bermuda’s first specialty luggage and leathergoods store modeled on The Traveller, a store in London, Ontario where she obtained a degree in bacteriology and immunology from the University of Western Ontario. There was no similar store in Bermuda.

With no business experience, Ms Robertson wrote to the owner of The Traveller, the late Roger Beaufoy to seek his advice. They met in the summer of 1973 and discussed her interest in opening a business in Bermuda.

He asked her what she would name her store. She replied, “The Harbourmaster”, the nickname that her husband Gerald Simons had given her because of her interest in the ships in Hamilton Harbour.

At the end of that first visit Ms Robertson purchased a leather briefcase from The Traveller with her initials monogrammed in gold on the front. When she opened the flap she noticed that Mr. Beaufoy had embossed the name “The Harbourmaster” on the inside. From that point on there was no turning back.

While still teaching, Ms Robertson took business courses, including two in accounting, offered by the University of Maryland at the US Naval Air Station at what is now Southside, St. David’s.

She says: “I think that every new business owner would benefit from basic training in accounting.” In July 1974, Ms Robertson returned to London and spent a month shadowing Mr. Beaufoy at The Traveller. He taught her the retail method of budgeting, how to plan and purchase inventory to achieve target sales and much more.

Ms Robertson says: “When I opened The Harbourmaster 40 years ago, I had no idea what a success it would be. Running a small business is hard work but I enjoy the independence. Fortunately, I have had very loyal and dedicated staff. My current staff of four have over 60 years’ experience among them.”

Over the years Ms Robertson has employed many high school students to work on Saturdays and during school holidays. For most, it was their first paid employment and a stepping stone to a variety of careers including business, nursing, law, politics and teaching.

Quincy Jones, Team Assistant, Investor Services, Bank of New York Mellon, says: “I started working at The Harbourmaster 14 years ago as a summer student. I still work at the store during my Christmas vacation as I enjoy working with the owner. Mrs. Robertson taught me a great deal about customer service, which has helped me in my current profession.”

In addition to running The Harbourmaster and raising a family, Ms Robertson has served the community in the past as Chairman of the Small Business Development Corporation [now the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation], President of the Bermuda Philharmonic Society and Chairman of the Adult Education School.

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Comments (5)

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  1. highroad says:

    Congratulations. Have always liked that store. Good quality items and good variety.

  2. Graham says:

    What a nice story :)

  3. Annie says:

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this place. Not only is the selection great but the staff are very friendly and helpful. I’d buy literally every single thing in there if I could!

  4. Ronnie Viera says:

    Congratulations Sheilagh!

  5. Onion Soup says:

    Congratulations, Sheilagh! I am still using leather pieces I bought at your shop or that were given as gifts over 20 years ago and they all look better and better with every year of use. You are still my go-to shop for quality gift items or a special treat for myself.