Lorne Rushton and his family run both B&C Power Products, and Kelsey Trail XTR. We chatted about the story of their businesses, community involvement, and what it's like running a family business in our area.
Q: Hey Lorne, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?
A: Thanks for having me!
Both of my parents came from large families, living in the Pas all of their lives. My dad started the same way any other shop starts; in the garage as a hobby. Thirty-five years later here we are!
Growing up at the shop all I ever wanted to do was be like my dad, what kid doesn't? I'd hang out with the mechanics in the back and take things apart. As I grew so did my interest, always building and changing things on my sled, can you guess which shop class was my favorite?
In high school I signed up with Apprenticeship Manitoba at the age of 16 and went into the automotive program through UCN completing level 1 and 2 while taking home a silver medal in the Manitoba Skills Competition.
Torn between pursuing automotive and being born into small engine, I stayed with the shop for my love of the toys. I've been the sales manager for a year now. But don't let the title fool you, I'll talk tech, troubleshoot or grab a wrench every spare chance I get.
Q: How long has B&C been operated by your family, and can you tell us a little bit about the company?
A: This year marks our 30th year in business and there's no sign of us slowing down any time soon. We carry a ton of different products, Lund boats, Lowe boats, Mercury outboards, Stihl lawn and garden.
About a year ago Snapper lawn and garden had sold out to the same company that builds the products for all the box stores, so we dropped them and picked up Ariens lawn and garden. After 18 years of being an Arctic Cat dealer we've recently pulled the plug due to the economy and lack of dealer support.
We rarely shy away from a challenge, we take on everything from engine rebuilds, welding and fabricating, to just basic services. With 100 years combined shop experience, plenty of certificates, a vast amount of specialty tools, computers, resources and the mindset to adapt and overcome we can help our customers fix whatever make or model comes through the door.
All of the brands we carry have a good reputation of taking care of their customers, for example our Motorfist outerwear is backed by a limited lifetime warranty. Some brands are getting harder to carry because of the dollar exchange, but some of our brands include:
Richlu Safety wear
We've also picked up a completely new brand of snowmobile outerwear that has never been available on this continent! It will be dropping this fall so stay tuned!
Q: Recently, your family took over K Trail. How does this business differ from others that have similar services?
A: Having your own fuel supply and knowing all the details on it is awesome. Service centers are what keeps the dealerships alive, but as much as we love working on your products, it makes us happier when you can pick your machine up and have no further problems with it.
For instance, the number one cause for repairs in small engines is fuel. The shelf life of regular fuel is only 28 days, after that the ethanol in the fuel starts to break down causing all sorts of problems. So because we have a knowledge of fuel our regular fuel is fresh every seven days. We're also able to regulate what goes in our customers machines down at the shop, so we have premium in everything.
Let's not forget about that corner lot right on Main Street, it's perfect for showing off any of the toys we have for sale. We believe in taking care of our customers, we offer full serve, fluid checks, and unless you tell them not to your windows are getting cleaned! Little to some people's knowledge, we do have a hoist. We mostly use it for our own personal vehicles but we've been considering offering a quick lube service to the public.
Let's not forget about the car wash, it's nothing fancy but we've increased the soap output to give you more suds, increased the running time so you get better bang for your buck. We're also the only public car wash open in the winter time. We do charge a small fee of $5.00 to help with the harsh cost of heating in the winter which has received both praise and hate.
Q: You're pretty involved in the community, can you tell us a little bit about that, and why it's so important to your family?
A: I'm not going to sugar coat it, there really is limits on what to do in The Pas. Growing up we made due with what we had, we would take nothing and make it into something, you see a pile of dirt? We see a sick jump. You see a patch of trees, we see a paintball course. I want to instill that same optimism in other people.
We had a plan for an off-road park and motocross track, but due to lack of volunteers and red tape, we burned out and decided we'd rather be riding than slaving away unappreciated.
We usually, along with LaJambe's help out to build the course for the Snow Jam at Trappers', and I've been able to help with judging and hosting various competitions in the north. It's pretty cool since I was once the little kid entering the contest, now I get to help the next generation.
Q: What are some of the challenges in your industry?
A: The American dollar kills us, and in our weak local economy people are scared to spend money on toys because they're not sure what the future holds.
With very competitive brands and new technology, the bar gets set higher and higher every year. Competing with box stores is also a huge challenge - 19/20 lawn mowers that come into our shop have been bought at Sears, Canadian Tire, or box stores not even in our town.
Online shopping is obviously a challenge too, if people can get something for a couple dollars cheaper online they will buy it, not thinking of the bigger picture of our communities. Then we have other business starting to carry the exact same products we've carried for years. All challenging.
The demand from the consumer to be competitive is stronger than ever. The snowmobile market is terrible for that.
Q: What do you think are some of the strong points of our communities?
A: I think there is a lot of hidden potential here and within the people. We've managed to breed some of the most skilled BMX riders I've ever witnessed. This is incredible, in itself, given the state of our current skatepark. The people have a ton of ambition but very little opportunity, which plays a big roll in everyone leaving. That and the challenge of affordable housing in the area.
What needs to happen is we need to get away from the stigma that the mill is the only thing keeping everyone here. The people need to take a big step back and look at the whole picture. We can't prosper as a whole if we don't support one another. And I mean all of us, RM, OCN, and Town. We have a hard enough time supporting what's already established, meanwhile ladies want a Forever21 and the guys want a Canadian tire.
We need to look at tourism, we have some of the greatest lakes in the world out our back door with some of the best fishing around bringing in thousands of dollars every year. We have a network of snowmobile trails and ATV trails that people come from miles around to enjoy, these people eat in our restaurants, stay in our hotels, and spend money in the community.
Q: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk, did you have any final words for our readers?
A: Just wanted to invite everyone who hasn't to drop by and visit us at our shops. We're proud to have served our communities for decades. Enjoy your summer!