Our History

GT French is a Hamilton-based distribution company with branches in Kitchener, Niagara Falls and Toronto. Founded in 1867 as the J.R. McKichan Company and located in the downtown core of Hamilton, the firm was purchased in 1914 by George Thomas French. After his death in 1948, the company was operated by his family until 1971.

It was then purchased by a group of individuals headed by William W. Nelson, who remained active in the business until 1989. William Martin, a shareholder who joined the firm in 1972 along with a small group of investors, purchased the company in 1990 and relocated the operation to a larger, modern facility in the Hamilton Mountain East Industrial Park. To this day, GT French remains privately-owned and operated, and is believed to be the oldest active business of its kind in Ontario.

As a member of Balpex, a Canadian co-operative of independent distributors, GT French is able to offer its customers both regional and national coverage, making it a major force in its trading area and beyond.

George Thomas French (1886-1947)

George Thomas French was born 29 June 1886, most likely in Barton Township. His father, Francis French, had lived in Glandford Township all his life until about 1884 or 1885, when he moved to Longo’s Corners, Barton, as a blacksmith. George was the middle of five children. Sadly, his two older sisters died within two weeks of each other, six months before George was born.

His first career was with CNR, qualifying as a train engineer at age 21. He was the youngest to qualify at that time. In 1914, he purchased the J.R. McKichan Company, a wholesale paper business that had started in 1867, the year of Confederation. In 1873, the company was making paper bags at 32 James Street South, Hamilton. The business moved its location over the years and is presently located on Glover Road, on Hamilton Mountain.

G.T. Was active in many fields. He was a 32nd-degree Scottish Rite Mason and a member of Erie Lodge A.F. and A.M. in Port Dover. He was a member of the Victoria Curling Club in Hamilton as well as a member of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. He lived in Hamilton all his life and belonged to St. Peter’s Anglican Church. Despite his larger city connections, George Thomas French was buried in St. Paul’s Glanford Church Cemetery, where his parents and grandparents were interred decades earlier.

After his death in 1947, his family operated the company until 1971. The company has passed into private ownership but the name has been kept with the added phrase “Established 1867.”