What may seem like a humble general store along Bragg Creek’s White Avenue is in fact a site of great historical significance to the community, and it just reached an important operational milestone too.
The Bragg Creek Trading Post, established in 1932 and located in the same historic spot it was originally built more than 90 years ago, has been providing its patrons with genuine native crafts, clothing, and goods since its founding.
According to Barbara Teghtmeyer, owner of the Bragg Creek Trading Post, her father Jack Elsdon started a trucking business and began trading with local Indigenous people – including the Nakoda First Nation (Stoney Tribe), before settling into the business’ current site.
“My dad came here to Bragg Creek permanently in 1932 through his trucking business,” Teghtmeyer said.
She said before his relocation, her father would truck back and forth between Calgary and Bragg Creek facing treacherous road conditions.
Upon settling in Bragg Creek, Elsdon first leased a store from Ida May White (an original Bragg Creek resident), which is a site now home to Ida Mays Ice Cream & Emporium along White Avenue.
In 1940, Elsdon moved his operations to the current location – a rustic log cabin-style building constructed in 1927.
The site of the building was at the time the “metropolis of Bragg Creek,” according to Teghtmeyer.
“The store was built here because it was situated on the centuries old Stoney Trail, the east-west trading route for the Indigenous people,” she remarked. “This was the hub back then and we’ve been here ever since and done lots of different things in order to survive.
“Back in those days, you had to be adaptable, and you had to do a lot of different things to survive.”
According to Teghtmeyer, when the business first began, the trading post specialized in exchanging furs with the Indigenous peoples of the area – something she remembers continued even in her time.
Over the years, the trading post began to offer a variety of staples to the southwest Rocky View County community, including flour, sugar, tea, and ammunition, which was a “big trade item.”
The Elsdons even delivered mail from Calgary to Bragg Creek for more than 36 years.
“Even up until the '70s and '80s, we had everything,” she said. “We were basically a department store and in 500 square feet, we had hardware, kerosene, gas, nails, barbed wire, and dry goods.”
Following the devastating floods that came to Bragg Creek in 2013, the trading post had to adapt quickly. The staff replaced lower logs of the original structure to preserve the structural integrity of it site and refocusing its inventory.
Teghtmeyer said living beside the river, her father always warned her to never trust what the flowing waterway might do, and cautioned her that a flood could come at any time.
“As a child growing up, we never bought a lot of supplies before a flood season was over,” she recalled.
“We didn’t bring the groceries back in at all [after the 2013 flood], and so now I guess we’re more of a native crafts gift store.”
According to Teghtmeyer, members of the Stoney Nakoda and Cree First Nations frequent the shop to trade their handcrafted bead work, earrings, necklaces, medicine pouches, and more.
She added one of the factors that encouraged her family to rebuild and repair the site after the flood was the desire to preserve the site’s history for future generations.
“We had so much history here and there was still a lot of historic things [left after the flood], so we should probably preserve them and carry on,” Teghtmeyer said.
“And also the community were so great at the time of the flood, encouraging us, ‘It’s an icon to Bragg Creek and you just have to keep it going.’”
She added former Bragg Creek residents often come back to visit the trading post as it is the only “constant” they know in the community.
“From every decade, we’ve always had people coming back,” she said, adding she relishes the camaraderie and sense of community felt at the trading post.
“They weren’t just our customers and neighbours, they were our friends, and have stayed friends for decades.”
She recalled her mother used to receive and send out approximately 300 Christmas cards each year to the trading post's patrons.
“It was the summer cabin community back in the early days, so people would come out in the summer and then at Christmas time, they’d exchange cards and write,” she said. “I think that’s the thing that is the warm spot in my heart.”
According to Teghtmeyer, both her husband and son have revived her father’s excavating business – a division of the Bragg Creek Trading Post – and made it into a “viable operation” that provides landscaping, trenching, and other services to Bragg Creek residents.
“The trading post had many different hats – including trucking and excavating,” she added. “At one point, we were running 15 cabins, Saturday night dances in the round hall, all under the hat of the Bragg Creek Trading Post.”
The second-generation business owner said she was shocked to learn the operation had reached its 90th year of servicing the community.
“I’m kind of surprised that we made it this far with all the changes in Bragg Creek and then the flood of course,” she recounted.