New RONA Home Building Centre opens in Little Current

Customer Grant Burnett of Sheguiandah was first through the doors at the new RONA Little Current Building Centre location on Highway 6.

LITTLE CURRENT—Cheers rang out across the floor of the new RONA Little Current Building Centre as Grant Burnett came through the door, eliciting a startled double take from the Sheguiandah resident. He was the first customer through the doors of the new building located on Highway 6.

“I hope they aren’t too disappointed,” he chuckled as he glanced around the bright wide space and glistening new shelves. “I just need a new water valve.”

Whether their shopping list is long or short, customers will find the same dedication to quality customer service pervades the new building. “It’s the first thing we moved over,” quipped manager Phil Bowerman.

Staff were kept busy over the past few days hauling stock from the previous location on Vankoughnet Street and setting it in place in the new 20,000 square foot building (or in the new garden centre out back).

“We wouldn’t have been able to do it without our great staff,” said manager Aaron Farquhar of the move. “They put in a lot of long hours and it was pretty hectic getting things set up.”

The anticipation in the store was palpable as the staff awaited the first customer. Although the store’s official opening time is 8 am, “everybody knows that we are here from about 7:30,” said assistant manager Phil Bowerman. “The contractors like to get in and be on the job site by 8 am.” It is that dedication to customer service that has been the hallmark of Manitoulin’s first  home centre since founder Gerry Timmermans opened the doors on the old location.

The first customer into the store on Monday morning was Grant Burnett of Sheguiandah, pictured here being assisted in finding just the right water valve by staff member Julie Casson during the soft opening. photo by Michael Erskine
The first customer into the store on Monday morning was Grant Burnett of Sheguiandah, pictured here being assisted in finding just the right water valve by staff member Julie Casson during the soft opening.
photo by Michael Erskine

“Our emphasis will always be on customer satisfaction and service,” affirmed Mr. Farquhar.

The new location project has been underway for about a year, he noted, and the new shelves will hold just about double the amount of stock as the old building. With that expanded new space, a wider range of products can be kept on hand and displayed. “People will not have to travel off-Island to find what they need,” said Mr. Farquhar.

The decision on what to do with the old location has not been finalized, he said. “We will probably be making that decision fairly soon.”

The May 16 opening is a “soft opening.” “We didn’t want to advertise it too much,” admitted Mr. Farquhar. Although attracting a large crowd would be nice, having a lower key first opening helps keep any bugs in the system from causing any serious discomfort or delay. In any event, the first customers ran through the process without a hitch. “We will be having a more formal opening celebration in a couple of weeks,” said Mr. Farquhar.

Mr. Burnett admitted that he had originally stopped by the old location, where he was greeted by a large sign noting that location was closed forever.

The store is now operating on summer hours, with its official opening each morning at 8 am and closing at 5 pm each day except Saturday, when the doors close at 4 pm. “The hours have worked well for us,” admitted Mr. Farquhar.

Mr. Bowerman said that although the new building is great, larger, brighter and cheerful, leaving the old location held a bit of melancholy. “Looking at my cleaned out desk and office, it was almost like I was retiring (he’s not),” he said. “It’s been almost 36 years.”

Mr. Bowerman recalled his first days on the job. “I had just left a job and was walking by the store when Don Morphet called me over,” he recalled. “He asked me if I wanted a couple of days’ work. The next day a driver called in sick and he asked me if I had a driver’s licence. I haven’t been out of work since.”

Mr. Bowerman isn’t the longest running employee, however, that honour falls to Gary Morphet with his 39 years.

“I guess you could say we like it here,” smiled Mr. Bowerman.

With an experienced and knowledgeable staff focussed on friendly customer-oriented service, RONA Little Current Building Centre’s new expanded location will be a valuable addition to the Island’s commercial sector.