Cochrane businesses have certainly had to adjust over the years as economic booms and busts have had an impact.
Three local business owners have recently hit milestones, and while not always easy, have managed to weather the storms and continue to stay afloat.
Over the past five weeks, all three owners have hit an accomplishment to be proud of; Craig Wilson, owner of Rival Boxing celebrated 5 years, Jag Thind, owner of Mehtab East Indian Cusine celebrated 10 years and Erol Yersel, owner of Erols Automotive successfully hit a 20-year milestone.
Opening the doors to Erols Automotive twenty years ago on August 4th, Erol shares he can't believe it has been that long. Over his twenty year history, he has certainly seen his business flourish; starting off with two bays and only a few employees, Erol is getting ready for another expansion. "I can't believe how far I've come and that I've actually made it. I bought a shop called Gibby's Auto Repair on Fisher Avenue and it was just two bays. Gibby had been around for a number of years and was getting older and didn't want to be in the car business anymore and so it was me, one other mechanic and my wife Lisa."
Starting off, Yersel was a journeyman technician and had the dream of making money, hand over fist which he was quickly schooled on. "I was like right on, I am going to start my own business and make nothing but money...but I had no clue how to run a business. Making money took some life lessons to figure out."
When Yersel first took over Gibby's shop there wasn't much competition but over the years, competition has picked up along with Cochrane's growing population. Working many hours in those start-up years, he continued to expand the shop little by little and recently signed paperwork to meet consumer demand. Booking three-weeks in advance without a lick of advertising, Erol's Automotive will soon be home to ten bays (from eight) and create jobs for 15 people (from thirteen).
Erol can't help but feel a sense of pride as he looks back and says he attributes his success to great customer service and having a small town attitude when conducting business. While he could have charged more to make a greater profit margin, that really isn't his schtick. "I could probably make more money but you have to have a conscience when you do business as well and I think that's part of that small town attitude. Stand behind the work that you do and when things go wrong, as sometimes they do, just stand behind and fix what's wrong and don't keep feeding people other problems and charging them through the nose."
Looking into a crystal ball past five years is anyone's guess, laughs Erol. "Five years... that is a long way away still; but we'll still be here, doing the same thing and hope nothing changes and I'm still alive...you never know."
For Jag Thind of Mehtab, while he can't take credit of ownership of all ten years, between himself and his wife Gunjeet they have operated Mehtab for seven years. "We took it over in June 2011. The previous owner was struggling because of his family but we are still in touch and he has a very nice family. Over the past seven years since we took it over, a lot has changed. We made lots of changes from the menu to decorations, from style to service."
Raising a young family and trying to build a successful business can be challenging at the best of times but couple that with some other factors and survival becomes your focus. Riding the wave of a downed-economy, Thind has seen families go from regular diners out to only going out for special occasions and meanwhile bore witness to a growing number of chain restaurants set up shop. Jag has certainly had to adjust business operations but if you know him well, you know his incredible work ethic and willingness to always lend a hand has attributed to his ten-year milestone. Thind says his success is due to his family support and love from the Cochrane community. "We always get positive vibes from our guests and people always say we are glad that you are still here despite so many restaurants closing because of the economy."
While Jag looks ahead five years, he hopes the economy makes his businesses, including Joe Liquor, more stable so that he can step back from working seven days a week, most weeks. If he had to give advice to other up and coming business owners he says it would be to get involved. "I think businesses, especially small businesses, should be more involved in the community and volunteer. Living and working in a small community like Cochrane is amazing."
Lastly, Craig Wilson has fought hard to reach a 5-year milestone but continues to K.O his goals. Opening doors to Cochrane's first boxing studio two weeks after being personally flooded out in the 2013 Great Alberta Flood was not the way Craig and his wife Cassandra wanted to start out. "The first year was a big struggle, there was a lot on the plate. But when it's your passion, it's not a job; you make it work."
Getting hand-picked by the worldwide company 'Rival' a year and a half into business, things definitely turned around. "It was a huge boost for us; from there it is all about being involved in the community, quality coaching, giving back a little and doing what you love."
Wilson's first five years have been filled with both incredible pride and stressful situations. The growing gym has relocated three times in five years and staff continues to be added as expansion occurs. Growing a team where everyone shares the same passion and education for the sport of boxing is important to Wilson and it shows. Turning out some incredible athletes, Rival Boxing Gym is becoming a big draw for Cochrane families. "Boxing has its discipline, good morals and teaches good life lessons while not being as regimented as karate for example. For that reason, parents love it and kids have fun with it. Just before the summer, we had 80 kids registered in our programs and we work a lot with Jumpstart and KidSport to provide families with an accessible option."
The future of Rival Boxing looks amazingly bright, shares Wilson. "The sky is the limit; we're going to keep growing with the community and doing what we do."
The one thing all three business owners shared was their passion for the Cochrane community. All the three owners not only conduct business here but reside in the community as well. As Cochrane grows, supporting our local business community by shopping local is clearly evident. Three independent business owners have been able to tackle government bureaucracy, tough economic times and a growing competitive market and still come out on the other side. While Cochrane is home to these owners, there are many other incredible business owners who not only invest their heart and soul into their business but support many initiatives, events, and programs that otherwise would not be viable or occur if not supported by local residents.