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November, 06

6,000 tons of inventory to start a new business.

Owner of Canada Rocks, J.P. Tremblay, says he had reason to be confident, though, when he bought 125 truckloads of top quality limestone while starting up his stone cutting business in Strathroy two years ago.

After spending nearly two years before that preparing a business plan, he knew exactly what he was getting into, he said. With a rapidly growing business, it now seems he was right to be confident.

Mr. Tremblay, who built a reputation in local landscaping circles as a stickler for quality, was hired by Mr. Plunkett to install a large intricate interlocking stone driveway. During the time it took to install the driveway, the two men developed a friendship.

As Mr. Tremblay neared the point where he was ready to start Canada Rocks, Mr. Plunkett provided encouragement and advice, as well as a significant start-up investment. About two years ago, Mr. Tremblay acquired a building on Firestone Road.

Starting with so many inventories may seem like a leap of faith, he said, but it was actually carefully calculated.

"It got us noticed," he said. "Everybody was asking who Canada Rocks was."

The large initial stone purchase also established a good relationship with quarry owners, he said, letting them know that he meant business. When you make small orders, you can't always get what you want when you want it, he said. With a big order, you're more in control.

As quickly as they can cut it, Canada Rocks is seeing its stone grabbed up by developers and landscapers. It's being used for everything from stair steps to wall blocks, edging for around pools, and landscaping features like flower beds and water falls.

Larger pieces are used for outdoor purposes like benches and tables, and indoor applications like fireplaces and counter tops. Flagstones and tiles cut in Strathroy are being used all over southern Ontario.

The Toronto region is where most of it goes, but a fair bit is being used in the London area, and some goes across the border into Michigan as well.

In addition to the wholesale supply of materials to contractors, as well as some retail sales of flagstones and tiles, Mr. Tremblay has added a secondary business making and selling custom cemetery monuments.

Mr. Tremblay said he was moved to start the monuments business for very personal reasons. After the loss of his son to cancer, he said he was unable to find the sort of monument he wanted from the limited choices available in the area.

Like his main stone business, the monument business grew out of recognizing a need and filling it. It's a strategy that appears to be working well for him.

Mr. Tremblay said that business is going well enough that he'll likely expand in the near future. When he does, leaving town is not part of the plan. "I'll definitely stay in Strathroy. It's a great place to live," he said. "And it's a business friendly community." The friendly small-town atmosphere, combined with the convenience of Hwy. 402 make Strathroy the best of both worlds, he said.

"It's the oldest trade, and it's the biggest trade," he said. "It's been around since the pyramids."

For more information, visit www.canadarocksinc.com.