Revved up for growth - Couple's power-equipment business in Langford has busy first year
Andrew A. Duffy, Times Colonist
Published: Saturday, December 24, 2011
The coastal forest industry has finally and slowly started to bounce back in the last two years after a woeful decade, but there's one man with a tie to that industry who has been flying since he opened his doors.
Don Walker and wife Jenny opened D&J Walker Power Equipment in Langford 10 months ago, taking over 1,500 square feet of space along Goldstream Avenue, and in that time their power equipment operation has very quickly become a destination for anyone looking for small-engine repair, new chainsaws and new power equipment of all size and description.
"I'm kind of surprised how quickly it's grown," Walker admits, noting he wasn't sure how a transplanted Nanaimo resident would be welcomed in the capital region. "But it's been great."
And it happened fast.
Indeed, by the time his first anniversary rolls around early next year, he will have moved across the street into 3,000 square feet of space with a large showroom and proper space for workshops.
But fast is nothing new to Walker.
He boasts a lifelong love of racing - images of him racing go-carts sit behind the cash register - and he's renowned for being able to "tweak" a chainsaw to give it a little more oomph and power that has made him a must-see for loggers who compete.
In fact, sitting on the floor of his retail area is what looks like a small generator on steroids.
It's an Echo chainsaw, minus its blade and chain, that's been modified with an exhaust system designed to give the two-stroke engine twice the power and a nitrous oxide canister attached to take the five horsepower system to 15 horsepower.
Walker notes Echo, one of the sponsors of the logger/lumberjack sports shows sometimes shown on TSN, had never entered one of their saws into the chainsaw competition and came to him to get them in the game.
"They'd just never made a big one for the chainsaw races, so they asked me to build them a cool one," he said, noting he sometimes takes it out for demonstrations at logger sports competitions and industrial shows.
Walker said the popularity of those sports is probably because it's paying homage to Island history.
"That's our background on the Island, forestry and fishing. All I know is forestry has put food on my table all my life," he said. "And it will be around forever in some form."
But saw modification is just a hobby for Walker, whose bread and butter is small-engine repair.
"I can fix just about anything," he said, noting since he was young enough to handle a wrench his dad had him working in the family shop in Nanaimo - now run by his brother. "I have been doing this all my life. I started fixing things when I was 10 and built my first go-cart engine at 11."
And now he's 45 and spent more time with a wrench in his hand than most will spend with a knife and fork.
He relishes the fact there are few people doing this kind of work these days, as it's good for business, but he does wonder what it says of a society that would rather throw away their machines than find out how they work and fix them.
"Things are now disposable. When the warranty is up nowadays they are deemed basically useless," he said, though he's quick to point out he does sell a lot of new equipment, too.
The service side of his business has allowed the business to thrive since it opened.
And while Walker does do some work for loggers who are getting back into the woods these days as markets improve, he's focusing more on homeowners, landscapers and tree-toppers in the city.
And the focus is on service first.
"I like to fix quick and get them out the door," he said, noting those kinds of shops tend to get very busy. "People are often waiting weeks to get their lawn mowers back."
Walker has established a stable of loaner equipment so whatever he's fixing - if he's waiting on a part - will have an immediate replacement so people can get their work done.
And that kind of work has been growing steadily.
"The big box stores are good for my business, because people often can't get parts or service and I still do the warranty work for those places," said Walker, adding once they come into the shop they often become regular customers.