The secret ingredient in running a long-standing business is loving what you do, according to three individual Peninsula business owners celebrating longevity this year.
MD Charlton Co. in Central Saanich, is ringing in its 40th year, and owner Alec Rossa hopes there are many more to come.
The store specializes in law enforcement supply, military gear, security equipment and clothing for first responders. Rossa is passionate about finding new and advanced technology and equipment, and supplying it to first responders nation-wide. There are currently four stores across Canada.
“We are constantly searching the world for new stuff, and we bring innovative technologies to Canada,” said Rossa, who has owned the company for 18 years.
Since he bought the business July 1, 2002 it has grown from 15 people to 60. Although the pandemic has been challenging he has not had to lay off any staff. “Our company is a success because of its people, and our team has great relationships with Canada’s first responders. We work with customers from coast-to-coast to supply products and training that saves lives and keeps our communities safe.”
Right now, Rossa said the company is focused on updating its software and website, to make the customer experience easier, faster and more interactive. Rossa is confident in the road ahead, and is looking forward to what is to come for the business.
“It’s ever changing, and there’s always something new and exciting. I enjoy the people I work with. The day it becomes a job, is the day I’ll move on and that’s the whole trick,” said Rossa. “You have to love what you do.”
In celebration of the 40th anniversary, MD Charlton will award 11 scholarships of $1,500 for students in policing or first responder programs across the country.
Another Peninsula business that has been around the block is Bosleys by Pet Valu in Sidney. Store owner Doug Busilla has run the local pet store about 20 years and previously owned one in Vancouver for about seven years.
Busilla said word of mouth has been a secret to his success, as well as building trust with customers.
“You have to be truthful and honest with your people,” said Busilla. “Once people talk to you and know they are getting straight goods, they can trust you. But that trust has to be built.”
Bosley’s sells pet food and supplies, a business model that works well for Busilla, as he loves pets and animals.
“It’s a fun business to be in because people with pets are like people with babies, everyone is happy and proud of their pets and are dying to share those things with you,” said Busilla. “We get to know the names of almost everyone’s dog that comes in here.”
For Busilla, the secret to the longevity of a business is being a good people person, and finding the right employees.
“I have employees that have been here a long time, when you don’t have that turnover it all works well together,” said Busilla. “We also enjoy our customers, and if we didn’t, it wouldn’t be that successful.”
A third notable long-standing business in the Peninsula is Expedia Cruises in Sidney, which has been open for about 26 years. The travel company has been in Sidney since 1994, and current owner Elaine Kirwin bought it in 1997.
“Sidney is a great area to be working in, the town has been supportive to us and we are selling travel, which most times people are happy about,” said Kirwin.
Expedia Cruises closed for two months at the start of the pandemic, but is now open.
Kirwin said she has enjoyed watching the business evolve over the years, including the customer clientele that comes through.
“I have gotten to know a lot of people; some clients I have had for 20 years and that’s lovely. It has also been really neat seeing the kids who went to school with my kids all grown up and buying travel now,” said Kirwin.
Kirwin said the secret to owning a long lasting business is loving what you do.
“I love planning travel for people. For some, it’s the only trip they’ll ever take, or maybe it’s a trip of a lifetime. It’s about the people and what we can provide for them.”