Sukhi Manhas has been selling furniture in Campbell River since 1987 when he moved here to start his own business.
Along the way, the owner of Island Home Furniture has seen the city grow and the economy fluctuate up and down and customers’ needs change accordingly.
But despite that, there is still one thing that doesn’t change: people still have to have couches, chairs, mattresses and appliances for their homes.
“But people still buy furniture,” Sukhi Manhas says. “That’s the one thing, 35 years, (When) people want furniture, they buy.”
In many ways the furniture business is always changing, with new technology being incorporated, new materials being used and new customer preferences driving sales.
People even shop differently now. With the advent of the Internet, people come into the store better prepared and are more knowledgeable about the business and its products.
“More people shop online now,” Manhas says. “They know you before they come to the stores, now. They check you out and then they come to the store and they know what kind of store you are.”
But, despite that, when they come into Island Home Furniture’s location on the Island Highway at Maple Street at the entrance to Campbellton, they’re still looking for essentially the same thing.
“People still like to deal with good service and good sales people and the right information, not wrong information,” Manhas says. “Those things never change.”
Manhas finds that people still appreciate a business that treats them right, whether it’s 1987 or 2016. And that’s what his business has tried to deliver since he first started.
Manhas was working in a furniture store in Nanaimo when he decided he wanted to be an independent entrepreneur and moved to Campbell River to open his own furniture store. The reason for choosing Campbell River was straightforward enough.
“We were told that they needed a furniture store,” Manhas says.
It was the right move for Manhas and his wife Sarb who love the community they have lived in for 29 years.
“It is a beautiful community,” Manhas says. “Campbell River is the best place to raise kids.”
The Manhases have raised four kids here.
“They are all grown up and they are successful,” Manhas says.
In fact, Manhas’ daughter Mindy has come back to the town to take over the furniture business from her parents.
“I am trying to slow down and pass on the torch,” Manhas says.
One thing that Manhas will be passing on will be the same lessons he has learned over the years that have led him to being successful. Those lessons apply today as much as they did when he started.
“Same thing that we did 30 years ago, same thing we do today,” Manhas says.
Manhas believes strongly in giving back to the community. He has been involved in Rotary for years and Island Home Furniture has sponsored sports teams, a race car, has been involved in supporting cancer fundraising, raising money for the SPCA, the Hospice Society and many other community charities.
“We like to give back to the community and the community is really, really good to us over the years,” Manhas says. “To stay that long in business, we give proper, fair prices and very, very good service after the sales.”
He pays tribute to his staff in helping support that kind of business philosophy. They have eight employees who have been with them more than 10 years.
“I believe in: if you don’t give back to the community, you are not going to be successful, as a human being.”
Manhas says they have made a good living, thanks to the community, so it’s important to give back and provide good service. And it seems to be a successful philosophy because even with all the competition, including the Internet, Island Home Furniture is still growing. Besides the Campbell River location, they’ve operated a Courtenay outlet for 25 years. Prior to their current location, Manhas was located on Homewood in a building he owned in which longtime residents will know as “the old Canadian Tire store.”
Manhas has seen the community grow from the time when it essentially ended at Robron Road. It has expanded greatly since then. And with that growth has come the demand for more furniture.
Things have changed economically but the demand for furniture is always there, good times or bad.
Manhas notes that the motivation for buying furniture changes with a recession.
In good times, people buy new furniture but in times of recession, people buy to replace what is broken. But either way, people still need furniture.
One thing that is true of today’s tougher times, Manhas points out, is that people want to put their money into quality products.
“People don’t want to buy cheap furniture. They want good furniture.”
And people have more choices these days and technology is always changing in the furniture market. Appliances are not the same as what they used to be. Fridges are almost like computers these days.
Styles change too. People used to like more colours in their appliances – you used to be able to find gold-coloured fridges – but now it seems to be just black and white and metal. Technology even affects mattresses with the availability of modern foams and other advanced materials. And with couches and chairs, leather is very popular.
Staying on top of all the trends is not as easy as you might think. Manhas goes to furniture shows in the U.S. two or three times a year to acquire stock and see what’s available. But going to furniture shows is not a vacation.
“When you go to a show you really have to work really hard,” he says.
You have thousands of square feet of exhibition space to explore.
“It’s not a holiday,” he says. “It’s more work than at home. We get up at seven o’clock in the morning and get back at six o’clock in the evening.”
But all the hard work is driven by a straightforward philosophy that Manhas keeps in mind all the time.
“We believe in community. Get involved in the community, help as much as you can and you will do good in business.”
For more information, visit www.islandhomefurniture.ca.