Their new London store will be 63,000 square feet plus an additional 89,000 square foot distribution center.
The London Free Press and The Windsor Star headlined front page business sections with the news, "Tepperman's Firm Expanding to London", and "Patton's Place Packing It In But Store To Continue Selling".
In its seventy-third year of business, Tepperman's has, says President Bill, "Come a nice full circle. There's poetry in it. Back in 1923/24, my father worked in London for a master peddler who had taken a liking to him. He predicted a boom in Windsor, growth in excess of 300,000 population, and suggested that my father hook up with a friend of his there with a view to some day having his own peddling route. Dad followed that advice, worked and lived for a time in his Windsor mentor's basement, then also the warehouse."
Nathan Tepperman opened his first store in 1929, not auspicious economic times, but somehow he prospered. Ten years later, he built a new store on Windsor's Ottawa Street. Six years after that, Nate doubled his floor space by adding a second and third floor. "Dad sold everything, furniture, appliances, bedding, cookware, carpeting, you name it."
In 1948, when Bill was 12 years old, he made his first sale. Although he later won an honors degree in economics at University of Toronto, there was no question that Bill's future was in the business. "I inherited it," said Bill, "but I also chose it."
In 1954, Nathan built a huge warehouse to handle increased volume. He died in a tragic accident in l970 and, three years later, Bill became company president. In 1978, he sold the Ottawa Street location and moved to a 51,000 square foot store on Ouellette Avenue, Windsor's main artery. Three years later, Bill invested in his first Chatham store, 50 miles east of Windsor, and in 1985 added Bargain Annex to the Windsor store.
In October 1992, disaster struck when the 54,000 square foot Chatham store burned to the ground, a $4 million loss. But with typical Tepperman style, less than two months later, he reopened at the opposite end of town. And the following July, Tepperman decided the time was right for a 25,000 square foot store in Sarnia, Ontario, north of Windsor.
Patton's Place, 63,000 square feet plus a 89,000 square foot distribution center, was founded in 1958 by Gord Patton and Ron Logan and became over the years a dominant furniture and appliance store in a population base of half a million. Both men recently decided to close their doors and retire from the industry. They are scheduled to liquidate their merchandise this month in a $6 million close-out sale.
Said Bill, "We get the key July 1, and we will totally gut and redo the inside of the store, pull down walls, construct new offices, carpet everywhere, repaint. The location is reputed to be the busiest intersection in the London area, Wharncliffe and Commissioners Roads."
Bill says he couldn't manage without his "Three right hands, one in each division of the business."
Gina Delicata "started as an assistant to the buyers back in 1981. She is very much a success story, very good at what she does". Gina is Director of Merchandising, Marketing and Sales.
Bill's Chief Financial Officer, Mike Horrobin, a Chartered Accountant, has been a part of the organization since 1991. "His qualifications are particularly useful since we carry all our own accounts.
"Jim Adkin has been with us for three years. He was previously Chief of Police, City of Windsor, took early retirement and is a wonderful addition to our executive team." Jim is Director of Warehousing, Distribution and Customer Service.
Rochelle Tepperman, Vice President and also Bill's wife, has always been involved with the business as well as with Windsor's hospitals and symphony, and she was Chair of both the Windsor and Regional Police Services Boards. "Rochelle is helping to assess the renovation needs of the new store."
Tepperman's has just completed its fiscal year, and "It was the biggest and best in 72 years. We are very pleased with sales. The timing was really good for us with the London opportunity. We were able to build enthusiasm ahead of time. When we discussed the venture with the team, it was hard to keep them in their chairs! We do nothing in this organization without total enthusiasm and agreement. If the atmosphere had even been neutral I would not have embarked upon this project. The light in their eyes is like magic. And that's wonderful," he smiled, "because then nobody can complain about all the hard work they have to do if they're the people who chose to do it!"
At a recent gathering of his clan, Bill wondered out loud how his father would have felt about the family's progress. "He was born on the Russian/Ukrainian border, raised in a home with a dirt floor. It's fascinating we've come so far in what is in an historical sense a very short time."
Bill has a good feeling about the new store. "We hope it will be even more successful than our present stores. We're constantly probing our markets to bend the boundaries outward and this is a natural extension of our existing market. We're in the final stages of hiring for the store, most of the existing Patton's staff, and we'll add specialist salespeople in each department. Hopefully we'll open for business at the beginning of September. Our Grand Opening is in the planning stage.
"Patton's and Tepperman's have been compared over the years in market prominence, family ownership, community involvement, respect for the consumer and reputation for selection, style, value and integrity."
Bill's office will remain in Windsor, but London customers will be able to call him toll free, "Part of Tepperman's design for growth.
"Moving into a new market is always a different challenge. No matter how long you've been in business, you're still the new kid on the block. We'll have to earn the respect of the customers, and we'll have to work to earn that.