Way to grow!
By Francie Healy
When Brian and Debbie Mallette decided to start a little business selling bath and kitchen products in the west end of Ottawa, they had two young children: Jessica, 8, and Adam, 5.
One cold Fall night they brought the kids to see an old 2500 sq. ft. warehouse on Woodward Road. It was to become the new home of Westend Bath and Kitchen. Jessica and Adam were part of it from day one.
Now, 25 years later, Jessica and Adam aren’t little kids anymore, of course. In fact, they’re pretty much running the place, getting ready to take over from Mom and Dad.
And the place – still in the same spot on Woodward Drive – isn’t so little, either. Now it’s a gleaming 8000 sq ft showroom with a seemingly endless display of products, designs, and concepts.
It didn’t happen overnight, of course. Brian says it “evolved”. And he adds it wasn’t always easy.
“We knew from the start that if you’re going to go into business you have to ride the roller coaster,” he says.
He and Debbie obviously thrived in all the ups, downs and growth – and so did their children.
Jessica and Adam spent many weekends and after-school hours with their parents at the store and accompanying them at trade shows. The family and the business were part of each other. The kids breathed it in. They learned, and they grew with it.
They were there as the company emerged from products to installation of specialized bathroom/kitchen creations including design and structural work.
Later, when the children were no longer kids but young adults who went away to university, they came back and worked during the summer.
“They were immersed in it,” says Brian.
When they were kids, Jessica’s and Adam’s parents had two employees. Now the family business has a staff of 20 installers and 13 full-time designers.
Family and staff all take pride in what they produce.
“Bathrooms and kitchens are two of the most popular rooms in a house,” says Brian. “Not just anyone can do them. It takes the professionals to do it right, and that’s what we do.” They do it all, too, he adds: from start to finish, including lighting.
He and Debbie didn’t know for sure if it was “meant to be” that the children would carry on the family tradition, but happily that’s the way it has worked out. In fact, Brian says he’s backing down already, down to a three-day week. He figures the kids will take over full time in about four years.
“But you’ll always have an office here,” Adam tells him.