Biz of the Month

Lee Valley – Biz of the Month January 2017

Lee Valley - Biz of the Month January 2017

Feature photo: Jason Tasse, Chief Operating Officer of Lee Valley, a family owned Canadian company, poses by a bank of computers where customers can order in-house products for pickup at the store’s service desk. The store, which opened in November 2016 in the Roundhouse Centre, 3009 Howard Avenue, sells high quality wood-working tools as well as kitchen and garden products, unique gifts and children’s toys. Photo by Dave Hall.

A family owned Canadian company approaching 40 years in business recently opened in the Roundhouse Centre on Howard Avenue across from Devonshire Mall in Windsor. Lee Valley, which was founded by Leonard and Lorraine Lee as a mail-order retailer, now has 18 stores across Canada with another scheduled to open in the Niagara Region this spring.

The business sells woodworking tools, produced by its manufacturing division, cabinet hardware, kitchen and garden tools and implements, as well as unique problem-solving gifts and hand-crafted children’s toys.

“The company’s first product was a barrel-stove kit, but Len was a farmer at heart and he loved tools so he quickly branched out into selling high quality wood-working tools,” describes Jason Tasse, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. “He later expanded into high quality, hard-to-find garden tools and it has grown from there, adding products almost every year.”

Leonard Lee passed away in July 2016 and the company is now run by his son, Robin, but it remains true to its roots by providing first rate customer service and hard-to-find products.

When customers enter the store, which is designed to resemble a vintage hardware store, they will encounter a small bank of computer terminals as well as a rack of order forms on clipboards.

They can choose either to order in-store products for pickup at the store’s order desk or browse among thousands of items on display counters and racks throughout the store.

“We think we can solve almost everyone’s gift-giving issues because we sell so many unique hard-to-find products,” Tasse comments.“We also sell toys which kids can build for themselves, because Mr. Lee wanted to encourage kids to use something other than their two thumbs.”

While the 6,500 square foot Windsor showroom (opened early November 2016) is the first Ontario store west of London, it is also designed to service the company’s almost 20,000 online customers in the Windsor-Detroit area.

“We already have a loyal mail-order client list in the area so we are very confident this store will be as successful as all of our other locations across Canada,” states Tasse who started out working in the company’s warehouse 20 years ago. “And the Windsor market is rich with skilled people used to working with their hands because of the manufacturing tradition in this community.”

Lee Valley publishes a 500 page catalogue of woodworking tools and hardware items as well as a 260 page home and garden catalogue.

The store boasts 14,000 individual items. The company exports products to more than 20 countries with overall sales in excess of $100 million. Its Veritas Tools division has 130 employees at its plant near Ottawa, which manufactures all the company’s wood-working tools. “We believe in supporting Canadian manufacturing and we are very proud of that tradition,” says Tasse. Lee Valley also sells a range of Festools, manufactured by a well-known and highly regarded German business.

The company has 1,000 employees across Canada, including 25 at its Windsor store.

The store also features a seminar room where customers can sign up for a range of workshops led by Lee Valley and industry experts from the fields of woodworking, gardening and more.

Information can be found on the company website: LeeValley.com. The store is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Dave hall
Dave Hall is a former reporter for The Windsor Star who contributes monthly features to Biz X magazine. Dave spent almost 40 years at the paper, covering sports, general news, municipal politics and business. Prior to that, Dave worked for The Brampton Times where he covered general news and sports.