By: Wanda Kurchaba (Photos submitted)
Above and beyond. That’s the type of service you get when you visit the Windsor Plywood store on 18th Street North in Brandon. With experienced, knowledgeable and loyal employees ready to assist you, your projects can start and end with confidence. Windsor Plywood has been part of the retail landscape, serving customers in the Westman region and beyond, for nearly 50 years. Although some may think of the store as a lumber or hardware store, it is so much more.
“We don’t sell drywall; we don’t sell shingles. What we have is the best selection of doors and mouldings. We also have the biggest selection of exotic woods. We carry products from Mexico, Brazil, Africa, basically wood from all around the world. Plus we have hobby and craft woods, crafting tools and a full-service shop for hanging doors, building stringers, making butcher block and much more. We’re probably one of the last little stores like it,” said Peter Behrens, Brandon’s Store Manager.
Known as the finishing store, Behrens said along with their unique product line, it is their staffing complement that raises the level of customer service. With four carpenters on staff and many long-term employees, they can guide customers and offer expert advice from the start of the project right through to the end. Also, with a full carpentry shop on site they can help customers to prepare their product so that it’s either easier to work with or easier to get it home.
“We will help them cut the wood, sand it, or grind it if we need to. A lot of people working on projects around the house don’t have trucks to take a full sheet of plywood home, so we can cut it down for them so they can get it in the car. Or, if they prefer we can deliver it for them.”
While many businesses were forced to shut down and others faced a steep decline in sales this past year because of the global pandemic, Windsor Plywood’s challenges were of a different sort. Supplies became scarce, the price of products sky-rocketed, and all at the same time demand increased.
“The pandemic caught everyone with their pants down, including ourselves and our suppliers. People were stuck at home, sick of looking at the same walls. They spent their time on Pinterest coming up with all kinds of project ideas. People were lining up to come in here. Everyone was building fences, building decks, building planters and making all sorts of things. And so the race was on to try to get the material. It was the perfect storm,” said Peter.
Windsor’s craft and hobby section that was once popular years ago had died down as the older generation of hobbyists drifted away, that is until COVID-19 made its way into Manitoba. Peter said they started seeing a whole new customer base, a new generation of young craftspeople. People are getting into building furniture and bowls, making guitars, creating projects with epoxy and even building canoes.
Between Christmas and New Year’s, the Windsor Plywood team took on a project of their own and started greeting customers in the New Year with a unique new counter that they created and built using specialty products available within the store.
“It was time for a change, and we needed a more functional counter. Plus we built it using products that we carry. The actual counter is a 20-foot live edge and there’s a full-size tree that we used as one of the posts. People love it, plus it has helped to showcase some of the unique products that we sell,” said Peter.
“We’re blessed that we were able to stay open, that we were still able to work. We have a good company behind us and great staff. We were glad to be able to help the crafters and do-it yourselfers to pass the time during this pandemic by helping them with their projects.”