With more than 40 years in business and a recent expansion, Way-Mar shows no signs of slowing down. The Hawkesville-based business recently added 3,400 square feet to its building and is celebrating on October 16 with an open house from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Specializing in home improvement, the business came from humble beginnings. Way-Mar was created on Jan. 2, 1973 by Wayne Martin. Originally named Way-Mar Aluminum, it specialized in siding.
Wayne ran the business by himself with a few employees for the first two years. He decided to take on additional partners to help ease his schedule. At that time he was working from 6 in the morning to 10 at night out of his home.
“As a young man I decided to take some risks and start my own business,” Wayne said. “I worked at Menno Martin’s for nine years and then I left there because I had some problems with my knees. I wanted to get away from some of that kind of work. I worked as a salesperson in Guelph for six or eight months and then decided to start my own business.”
He took on three partners, which worked for about three years before one partner moved north to New Liskeard, so they were down to three. That was in 1977. The three of them stayed on as partners for another seven years, before another partner moved up to Owen Sound, and then they were down to two.
“Then we hired another person to help with sales who then became a partner a year later,” Wayne said. “There were three of us until he passed away quite suddenly, took ill in October with a brain tumor and died in March.”
Rob Martin, vice-president of operations, adds Bob Shantz played a big part in the growth of the company. He passed away in 2003, but he was a significant player in taking the company into the city a little bit more.
“When I took on the first partners, that’s when we started renting some space for more space to operate,” Wayne said. “In ’76 we bought our first property in Hawkesville, which is where a cabinetmaker (Hawkwoods Furniture) is now.”
They stayed there until 1985 when they moved to their current location on Ament Line. Wayne says they always did some renovation work along with the siding work. They expanded into the insulation business as well around ’76. They also did siding work for other local contractors.
“For a period of time we tried to stay out of the renovation business, to not be in competition with them, but it just didn’t work. So finally we just started catering to the demand,” he explains.
Wayne said the last number of years he was directly involved, there were five or six shareholders in the company, and then by 2005 he started selling some of his shares to the new shareholders and got out completely in 2010.
He said the growth of the company depended on the demand, and there was no shortage of that.
“When I started I told my wife I don’t want to have more than one or two employees and stay small, but it just seemed to be impossible to do that.” Wayne said.
In terms of starting and running his own business, Wayne can’t pinpoint any major challenges he came across. He says it wasn’t difficult to get financial backing at the time because he didn’t need a lot, not compared to what is needed nowadays.
“I guess the biggest challenge was just to have the courage to do it,” Wayne said.
He adds as soon as he let the word out he was starting on his own, he was busy. He’s never been out of work since.
Hiring more people than he originally intended to was a result of needing more help to get the work done. Wayne notes the community has been very good to them.
“People have confidence in us,” Wayne said. “As the company grew the biggest challenge became remaining organized and productive, with a strong emphasis on quality.”
The business has become something of a family affair. His daughter has been with the company the longest, working in the office. His son is a partner now and originally started as an installer. The CEO, Darrell Martin, is his nephew.
“I always wanted to be open to having family a part of it if they wanted to be, but I never put pressure on them to become a part of the business,” Wayne said.
Darrell says his uncle Wayne always worked to grow the business, adding an insulation division along with the siding. The company moved to the current location to allow more space for the expanding business.
“By that time he was already doing some home renovation work, some home improvement,” Darrell said. “He expanded the whole home improvement line and added a renovation division. There was a renovation done to the building here in 1998.”
Now there are four partners running the company cooperatively. Darrell and Rob are joined by Wayne’s son Trevor Martin, and Karl Steckley. Trevor is the chief operating officer and Karl is vice-president of sales.
Darrell said from 1998 on the main focus of the company became renovations and additions. These were added to windows and doors, exterior finishes, insulation and roofing.
“The company continued to grow and expand through 2005 to 2010,” Darrell said.
Despite his retirement four years ago, Wayne says he’s always busy, maybe too busy this year. He volunteers for Elmira District Community Living and has been a part of that organization for more than 20 years as a member and on the board of directors.
“But the last five years in particular I’ve just been managing their building projects for them,” Wayne said, “This year we’re building a seven-unit apartment building in the new subdivision.”
Way-Mar started the current expansion in December of 2013 and are just wrapping up little cosmetic odds and ends now. It includes administrative space, a second floor for office, and an updated showroom.
“Sales staff and administrative staff were in pretty tight quarters so it was just to get them separated, get admin away from sales,” Darrell said. “It was just to get that separated and also to get our sales staff out of the basement. It was time to update the building and get things looking more current.”
They’ve added some meeting space, a boardroom, and training space for employees. The basement offices were converted into meeting and training spaces, while the boardroom is on the second floor. They now use the meeting room to meet with clients, instead of being on top of everybody else.
“It seems for what we’re doing it’s better to have separate spaces,” Darrell said.
The inside of the building shows a real attention to detail, with accent walls and bright lighting to demonstrate the different products in their updated showroom. In the fall edition of their Total Home Renovation magazine, Rob says he hopes customers will notice the attention to detail because it’s the same quality they’ll apply to their homes.
Darrell said when they moved to the current building in 1985 they had outgrown the space they were in. There are 25 employees now.
“The boardroom, the training room, they’ve already been used. It’s much better use of space than what we had before,” Darrell said. “You don’t feel like you’re on top of each other.”
He believes they’ve remained successful by staying current with the products they carry, and also by offering a quality product and service at a fair price.
“Insulation, the polyurethane has changed. Because of this whole green initiative, several years ago it changed to a soy-based product.”
He notes there always seems to be new products coming out for exterior finishes and siding. They’re getting into different vinyl, PVC and aluminum products.
“With kitchen renovations, there are a lot of new finishing countertops and cabinets. It’s going more to granite, and marble, and concrete.”
When asked, Darrell says they see the most volume for work in their additions and renovations department, a lot of which are kitchen and bathroom transformations. That’s closely followed by exterior finishes. He says they all carry a significant weight, but those two are where they likely see the largest sales volume. They also offer smaller products like skylights, decks, and railings.
Way-Mar offers their services throughout the area, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph. Darrell says their best source of advertising is referrals through word of mouth. They seem to be what drive the company forward.
“We’ve served, in some cases, three generations of family members just through referrals, it’s been really good for us in that way.”
“Our phone rings, that’s how they support us,” Rob said with a laugh.
Rob adds that having their name in the community for 40 years has made it a household name when you think of some of the services they offer. The company has been an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau since 1979.
Wayne says the emphasis on quality and service are the key to the business. He adds he hopes they can continue to be as successful as the company has been in the last 40 years.
“I want the community to know we appreciate their confidence in Way-Mar over the years and appreciate their support,” Wayne said.
While the four partners have different titles, Darrell says it’s still very much a combined effort of running the business.
“We don’t want the future of the company to be built on one person. We want it to keep perpetuating into the future,” Rob said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys with young families working here that want to make this their career. We just need to figure out how to make that happen.”
He notes that they try to keep their business general, meaning they don’t cater to just one niche market. They’re open to taking on projects, with everything from new builds to high-end renovations.
Everyone is welcome to come check out their new space during the open house at 3585 Ament Line. There will be a draw for a literal door prize worth $2,000.
“It’s continued to provide a good place for people to work and a place where they can support and raise families and at the same time provide a service to the community, while maintaining the standard we’ve set and continue to attain,” Darrell said.