For more than 35 years the DeMaere family’s livelihood revolved around the Greyhound bus service across Western Canada.
Dating back to Saskatchewan when their mom started working as a ticket agent at the bus depot in their hometown. Jason DeMaere saw his more than 20 year involvement with the company take him first to Manitoba and then to the Okanagan Thompson region where he operated the two largest independent Greyhound depots in Canada.
Greyhound managed the courier service and ticket agents for the depots in Kamloops, Vernon and Kelowna, while his brother Rod did the same in West Kelowna.
DeMaere’s wife also worked at the Greyhound bus depot in Kamloops.
Then last fall, the DeMaeres were each given three months notice of Greyhound’s service being cancelled, leaving them all out of work.
“It had an immediate impact as 100 per cent of our family income came from Greyhound. It was that simple,” DeMaere recalled.
“I had to decide what I wanted to do as I am 45 years old and had a few more years of work ahead of me.”
That decision was for DeMaere to start up their own courier service as he already owned the courier service vehicles used by the Greyhound courier service.
And they had the experience: DeMaere’s brother had worked for 32 years as a Greyhound agent while his wife Melissa had worked 11 years managing the freight room and delivery drivers within the Kamloops to West Kelowna corridor.
He created a new courier company, DD Express, with the business model to provide local courier service to clients between Revelstoke and Osoyoos, stepping into what is a very competitive industry.
DeMaere is trying to pick up the pieces following the Greyhound closure, as clients at that time were forced to look elsewhere for their package delivery needs.
“It is a new start for us that is both exciting and scary at the same time. We had a successful courier agency operating through Greyhound and business was good. But what is exciting is now we have full control over the shipment process and price point,” DeMaere said.
“We have been doing this for 20 years now and we know what the customers want. The bigger outfits are getting bogged down by delivery demands for online shopping so we are looking to provide quality service to the smaller regional businesses the larger courier operators don’t have the time to deal with right now.
“We see that as a good niche for us to try to work ourselves into.”
To help expand their reach, DeMaere has also struck up a working relationship with the Greyhound bus depot and courier service agents in Salmon Arm, Warren and Cheryl Keen, who also received their service termination notices and subsequently started their own local parcel delivery service.
“The idea is to work together to try and establish a network across the region rather than directly compete with one another,” DeMaere said.
DD Express currently has nine vans and one delivery truck with six employees, and will look to expand both those aspects of the business as revenues grow.
“We go as far north now as 100 Mile House but we would like to expand further to Prince George by the spring,” he said.