In 2015 Bruce Carson, David Carson, Terry Black, Al Graham and Tom Kelly sat down with Business in Edmonton to discuss the company that opened on Halloween of 1975. The interview, the team, the headquarters and everything about EWEL spoke to why the brand was such a success – great people, great products, and winning attitudes all around that tempered good business sense with experience and solution-oriented judgement. Now the electrical wholesale distributor for residential and commercial products is back to let us know what’s changed as they gear up to celebrate their 45 year milestone.
In 2019 EWEL was acquired by Guillevin International and now operates as an independent division of the brand. EWEL is now helmed by David Carson, General Manager; Mike Gravel, Sales Manager; and Jon Kudryk, Operations Manager. New lines, Knipex, Wera, Drexan, Paulin, have been added to the inventory. Drexan is especially exciting as this is an industrial line from a globally leading manufacturer of trace heating systems.
While the pandemic makes it hard to celebrate 45 years the way they want to, surrounded by old and new customers, suppliers, and friends, the management team feels they have plenty to be thankful for in 2020.
“We were born in Alberta in 1975 and we love this city and this province. We’ve made it our business to know the Alberta and Edmonton markets very well,” says Gravel. “Those factors allow us to move and react to our customers and the market much faster than our larger competitors.”
Carson adds, “We have committed, loyal, long-term employees with an abundance of knowledge. It’s because of this low turnover rate that we’ve been able to lead the way in customer service and satisfaction.”
The team found 2016 to be memorable over the past five years because that is when they implemented a new ERP system.
Gravel explains, “Implementing our new ERP system was memorable, and not completely in a good way! It was an exceptional challenge with a lot of ups and downs, but we made it through. It’s changed our business insights and processes in profound ways.”
For Carson, 2019 stands out due to the smooth implementation of a planned succession. “That year marked a significant changing of the guard, so to speak,” he says. “We were able to swap long-term shareholders for a younger, enthusiastic management team and do so in a very short period of time. It’s this next generation of management that is going to lead the way for many years to come.”
Like every business in the city, the economy and the pandemic have presented challenges. Management is happy to inform that business is again on the upswing, and they are holding their own amongst fierce industry competition. With more than 40 successful years behind them, it’s safe to assume that they are looked at as worthy competitors as well.
Despite the challenges, there are plenty of rewards, as Carson notes, “Coming to work and feeling the energy that everyone in the building brings every day… we are one big family and that makes coming to work always enjoyable. As Mark Twain said, ‘find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never work a day in your life.’ That’s what the amazing employees at EWEL do for me.”
Those employees take their job very seriously – just one example is Don Cherwonka, the resident lighting expert that has been with EWEL since 1975. He is happy to share stories about working with Bob Carson in the 80s.
Two things that have not – and will never – change for EWEL are the customer focus and the love of the local community. Way back in the 70s EWEL set out to be the best electrical distributor in Edmonton and their number one priority remains being so by never letting their customers down.
“We’ve got your back during this pandemic – and beyond!” says Gravel. He adds, “We’re all proud to be Edmonton born and bred. EWEL’s ownership has changed recently, but we’re still managed by a group of lifelong Edmontonians. We love this town and we’re stoked to be a part of this awesome, supportive community.”
The current conditions have not stopped EWEL from its mission of being community focused in both job scope and in charitable giving. Gravel confirms, “We supplied new electrical service gear for the Cross Cancer Institute, and it was a job that held special meaning for us. All of us have been touched in some way by cancer, so it was great to see that grand old building get the upgrades that it needed.”
“We’ve been involved with Aurora Cannabis almost since the start and with our contractor partners, we’ve played a role in building many of their facilities in the Edmonton area. We’ve supplied everything from switchgear and transformers to cable tray and pipe. We’re proud to have played a role in Aurora’s success. We are also very proud to have contributed to a few projects in ICE District. We supplied some lighting equipment for both Rogers Place and the Stantec Tower. Those projects were massive, and our role was small in the grand scheme, but we were thrilled to have a hand in building ICE District.”
Carson adds, “We do our best to support the Edmonton Food Bank every year, and we’re proud to have supported the Canadian Cancer Society over the past few years, as well as MS Edmonton, among many other non-profit organizations.”
The business community has been proud to recognize EWEL over the years for its outstanding leadership and customer focus. EWEL has received the iMark Award for Purchasing Excellence in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019; David Carson has been honoured as a Business Leader in 2018; and employee Brittany Taylor earned an ECAA Emerging Leader award in 2019.
Yet EWEL remains very humble, saying the reasons for its success rests on partnerships inside and outside of the corporation.
“No business is successful without its strategic partners,” says Gravel. “We’d be nowhere without excellent partners like Schneider Electric, Eaton, WOW Lighting, and Prolux just to name a few.”
“We could go on and on about all the partners but want to say a special thanks to all of our amazing customers,” adds Carson. “You’re what make all of this possible; without you, we’d have no business at all. We’ve grown together in our businesses and our relationships and you are what keep us smiling. Sincerely, thank you!”
After 45 years EWEL isn’t standing still. They still have that spark and it burns as brightly as ever. A new branch is opening next year, which management calls a “minor miracle in the time of COVID,” and a new e-commence solution is the works to be implemented in Q3 2021.
Don’t take your eyes off EWEL. They are the humble company that just keeps growing and improving Edmonton and Alberta one project and one act of service at a time. Learn more at www.ewel.ca online, or on social media on their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram channels.