Tasco Supplies is celebrating its 40th anniversary in the lakecity with a Trade Expo at the Curling Rink this Friday and Saturday.
More than 60 exhibitors catering to the automotive, industrial and welding trades will be featured in the show.
Tasco and its sister businesses Taylor Automotive and Cariboo Steel Centre typify the entrepreneurial spirit that remains alive and well in the Cariboo Chilcotin.
Owner Rick Weil says there is no doubt his company has suffered over the past few years with the global recession, but he is proud to say they have not had to cut back on employee hours or income.
Tasco Supplies was founded in Williams Lake March 1, 1971 by Rick Weil, Dave Ireland and Fred Thuncher. A few years later, in 1974, the partners opened a second Tasco Supplies in 100 Mile House.
The Williams Lake store was expanded five times over the years to meet the growing demands of industry in the region, which included a demand for custom-made parts for heavy equipment and machinery.
So in 1989 the company purchased the Cariboo Steel Centre and then a third Tasco Supplies in Quesnel 12 years ago.
Over the years, Rick bought out his partners’ shares in the business, eventually becoming sole owner in 1993.
Today the businesses employ 68 people, including 12 welders and machinists capable of making custom bushings, shafts, couplings, protective grills and other items needed by the automotive and heavy equipment industries.
The company specializes in problem solving.
“We started out selling industrial and automotive supplies, and have evolved to provide specialized service for the automotive and equipment trades,” Rick says, as an employee hands me a beautifully polished steel cylinder he calls a “splined bushing.”
I almost drop the object on the floor because it is much heavier than it looks. Then my jaw almost drops to the floor when they tell be the small custom object carries a price tag of $400 because of the time it takes to make.
These days one of the company’s biggest challenges is keeping track of and maintaining inventory because the needs of industry are always changing.
A floor-to-ceiling wall of resource material in the purchasing department is testimony to the enormity of this task.
“We have 30,000 different parts or “SKUs,” which is an anachronism for numbers given to the parts in the computer,” Rick says. “We are looking forward to the day when everything is bar-coded.”
While Tasco and Taylor Automotive meet specific needs of industry, the stores are also great scouting places for the home hobbyist and do-it-yourselfer.
There are nuts, bolts and screws as small as an eighth of an inch, right up to three inches in diameter. There is heavy duty hydraulic equipment and there are garden hose attachments. And there are plasma cutters in sizes large enough to slice through inches of steel and small enough to design thin metal sculptures.
But what really makes the business tick is its employees who are treated as family.
Rick says it is important for the employees to have wages they can live well on and he has also worked hard to provide medical, dental, extended health, and RRSP benefit plans.
As a result many of the employees have been with the company 20 years or longer.
Creating a stable working environment, he says, is especially important for a business like their’s which caters to repeat customers, who know what they need and can develop an easy rapport with the employee who specializes in the particular type of equipment they are seeking.
Rick and his family also have deep ties to the Williams Lake community.
Rick, was born in Paris, France and lived in England until the age of six, when his family settled in Williams Lake where he was raised.
His wife Carol (Kelly) was born and raised in Williams Lake.
“We married young and decided early on that we wouldn’t work together so we would have things to talk about in the evenings,” Rick says. “It’s worked so far. We’ve been married 47 years.”
Fresh out of school Rick started learning the automotive and industrial supply trade as a salesman for Taylor, Pearson and Carson automotive equipment supply. He has taken many workshops and training sessions over the years to develop his skills in business.
Carol became a well-known and respected realtor in the community.
Today their son, Troy, is working with his father as manager of the Cariboo Steel Centre and their daughter, Tanya Rankin, has followed in her mother’s footsteps as an independent realtor.
Tanya and her husband Jordan have three school-age daughters, Makena, Mailea, and Mallory. Troy and his wife Naomi have two school-age daughters, Kaylee and Paityn.
Friday and Saturday Rick and his close and extended family will be looking forward to sharing their 40th anniversary with visitors to the trade show at the curling rink where there will be a three-foot-by-six-foot cake to share each day of the show.
In addition to displays by some 60 exhibitors and suppliers there will be all sorts of demonstrations of welding, woodworking, new products and equipment.
“Everyone is invited,” Rick says. People working in industry, families, hobbyists — everyone.”