Trevor Kowalchuk, dealer-owner of Brandon Home Hardware Building Centre, was recently named one of the hardware industry’s eight 2014 young retailer of the year award recipients by the North American Retail Hardware Association.
The award recognizes individual achievement by industry retailers 35 years of age and younger throughout Canada and the United States. Selected from different retail categories, winners are chosen based on a number of criteria, including professional activities and highlights in areas such as career and community involvement, hardware industry education and extracurricular activities.
"To be honest, I was surprised," Kowalchuk said. "I was pretty excited to hear that Home Hardware had nominated me. It was quite overwhelming."
Kowalchuk’s business venture and success began in 2009 when he purchased two separate businesses (a home business centre and a lumber yard), merged them, expanded the physical space and changed some of the product lines. This, of course, is now the Brandon Home Hardware Building Centre on 18th Street.
"It was a quite a transition, you have to learn so much. I feel like I’m always wearing 24 different hats," Kowalchuk said. "You hire, you do reviews, you deal with customers, you do payroll. There’s not much that I don’t touch."
Since the merger, Kowalchuk has been busy expanding and changing product lines. According to a news release from the NRHA, he has quite significantly increased sales in different areas of the business since the renovation.
"I’m proud that we can deliver such a diverse product line. We have everything from hunting and fishing supplies to flooring," Kowalchuk said.
Kowalchuk was also recognized for his involvement with the community, most notably with sponsorship of the Memorial Cup and the store’s involvement with the Special Olympics, the Rotary Club and the Kiwanis Club’s car derby.
Kowalchuk will accept his award at the Young Retailer of the Year awards banquet on May 5 in Las Vegas.
Manitobans love their hot tubs. I know at least four families who purchased a hot tub within the last year. I also had a former colleague who recently moved to the city ask me, "what is it with Brandonites and all their hot tubs?" Is it the cold? The health benefits? The entertainment value? Or, is it all of the above?
Well, Trent Gray, the owner of Waves Leisure, will test the water on that.
Gray has spent 14 years on the service end of the business and looks forward to meeting new customers and reacquainting with people he has worked with over the years.
"We’re excited to be able to service hot tub and pool owners in Brandon and the surrounding areas," Gray said.
General sales manager Dave Brennan said what makes them stand out is that they are carrying Beachcomber hot tubs.
"Beachcomber hot tubs are one of the best on the market. They have full foam insulation, are easy to maintain and are energy efficient," Brennan said.
Waves Leisure will offer more than just hot tubs, though. They will also carry inground and above ground pools, billiard tables and accessories and everything to do with darts. As well, they are pleased to be bringing BioGuard Pool and Spa Care Products back to the city, as these products haven’t been available locally for a number of years.
"This is a huge market (Brandon and surrounding area). For us though, customer service is going to be key. Trent is one of the best at building pools," Brennan said.
Today is the grand opening for Waves Leisure, and they will have in-store specials all week long. Visit them at 99 18th St.
Laugh out loud
If there’s one thing that’s good for the soul, it’s a good laugh. Mathew Li, the proud new owner of LOL Gifts, hopes his new business venture will indeed keep him and his customers laughing (hopefully, even out loud!).
LOL Gifts, officially opening May 1 at 712 18th St., is a unique gift store with novelties, handbags, wallets and children’s novelty items.
But what makes Li’s new store quite different from others in the city is that he will also be able to create personalized photo gifts in just 15-20 minutes per item.
"Bring your favourite photo in on your smartphone, USB or DVD and we’ll put it on a T-shirt, mug, mouse pad, cellphone or tablet cover," Li said.
LOL Gifts also has a variety of clothing in different styles and colours, picture frames, slate frames, puzzles and even wearable flip flops that they can personalize.
"Along with walk-in orders, we will also do pre-orders for the general public or businesses," said Li, who graduated from Brandon University with a business administration degree in 2012. "I’ve invested in some good equipment, so that I’m able to print on the various products lines."
» Wanda Kurchaba is a Brandon freelance writer and a communications and marketing specialist. This column on Westman’s business community appears each Saturday. Contact Wanda directly with any story ideas. firstname.lastname@example.org