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35 Years of Paradise

Ernie McColman and his family reflect on how working together has made them a stronger family

Ernie and Marilyn McColman, Laine McColman, Vail McColman, Megan Smyth and Carrie Deacon.

In 1982, Ernie McColman decided to become self-employed. “I wanted to create a business for myself and my wife,” says Ernie. “Previously, I managed two other flooring companies and by that point, I already had 10-12 years of flooring experience.”

Opening a flooring company was the next logical step. He and his wife, Marilyn, named it Paradise in honour of their favourite holiday destination, Maui. Ernie and Marilyn could have predicted the company’s success, but at the time they had no idea this entrepreneurial journey would turn into a family business that would grow to include their sons, daughters and grandchildren.

“Paradise Carpets is a very well-established, family-run floor covering business. We have a whole team of dedicated installers that have been with us for many years and a very experienced service team. We service the Edmonton region, but we also go where our clients need us, such as Sylvan Lake and Peace River,” says Ernie.

“I started Paradise Carpets in my home and worked out of there for a year. By then I needed to rent a commercial space, so I found a spot on 103 Street and 61 Avenue. That worked out for year, but then we needed a larger location!”

The company kept growing – fast. After another move to a larger location, Paradise settled into its current home on 36 Avenue and 99 Street, where a large showroom, extensive mezzanine, beautiful offices and plenty of parking serve the needs of the company and its clients.

As the company grew, Paradise developed lasting relationships with home builders, renovators and insurance adjustors; the well-run and successful company also piqued the interest of Ernie’s family. Marilyn joined Paradise in 1987, and even though their children (Megan Smyth, E. Vail McColman, Laine McColman and Carrie Deacon) had initially pursued other interests, they all gravitated to Paradise – and they couldn’t be happier about it.

“As a family business, everyone is working towards a common goal, and we all take pride in the outcome of our work,” says Carrie. “I was sad when I went on maternity leave because I didn’t get to see everyone every day. We rely on each other and we all have each other’s backs.”

“It makes for a great team,” admits Vail, “All for one and one for all! Having the opportunity to work with people that you have grown up with your whole life – we are a well-oiled machine, and that allowed our parents to hand over the reins and semi-retire.”

“We work very well together. It’s fun,” agrees Laine.

Megan, too enjoys the family dynamic. “I couldn’t imagine working with people that aren’t family!”

But being a strong and hardworking family is not the only thing that makes Paradise Carpets so successful. As each sibling will attest, they all bring a unique blend of skills, education and experience that enables them to offer every client and every project the benefit of 360 degrees of customer service.

“We try very hard to buy and use Canadian products and support Canadian companies,” notes Marilyn.

“We always research the products available to us by going to carpet shows, and we make sure we have the latest products available,” adds Ernie.

“We take all the factors into consideration,” informs Megan. “We ask our customers about their lifestyle – do they have children, dogs, high traffic areas in the home – so we can determine which flooring products meet their needs and budget. Our customer service really sets us apart. Our clients feel comfortable with the family business. Some say, ‘I’ve been to other stores but I always come back to Paradise’. The way we treat people is beneficial to us. We don’t do much advertising; it’s all word of mouth and referrals. That says a lot when you are not a big box store. That says that we are successful because of our happy and satisfied customers.”

Laine and Vail agree, “We are with our customers from start to finish. We greet them personally the first time they walk through the door, and we are there to make sure they are satisfied with the end result of their project.”

The flooring industry has evolved over the last three decades, and Paradise Carpets was happy to evolve along with it. As flooring trends gave way to hardwood, laminate, luxury vinyl plank and ceramic tile, these items were added to the showroom.

“I’m very proud of our showroom,” beams Ernie. “It’s one of the most organized and cleanest ones you’ll ever see.” Before his semi-retirement, he would walk through the showroom at the start of each week and give it an intensive inspection. “I made sure it was clean, neat and that every sample was where it belonged so people could quickly see what was available.” His children are happy to carry on this tradition, and the difference is evident at first glance. There are hundreds of samples, all neatly organized, easy to find and beautifully displayed.

Ernie and his family also made sure the company was diversified enough to deal with the ups and downs of Alberta’s resource-based economy.

“We have a range of price points and areas,” Vail explains. “When things slow down in one area, another, such as new construction, picks up the slack.”

“We also deal in retail, for renovations, etc.,” adds Laine.

Knowing that a successful business takes more than expertise and customer service, Paradise ensures that its staff are treated well, and it has been rewarded with a loyal, dedicated team as a result.

“There is one woman that has worked with us for 30 years,” reminisces Marilyn. “Her name is Jackie Orr. She started as a ‘Jill-of-all-trades.’ She looked after the customers and now is our interior decorator. She is well known within our customer base and is very much depended upon for her knowledge and skills. If it hadn’t been for Jackie in the beginning, we would not be where we are today. She is instrumental in our success. To Jackie and all of the staff, installers and trades, the management team say a great big thank you”.

Paradise also says thank you to its clients and the community that supports them, and is happy to give back with their involvement in Habitat for Humanity®, Christmas Bureau of Edmonton, STARS®, Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, among many other charitable initiatives in the Capital City.

Thirty-five years have passed since Ernie opened up a flooring shop in his home, and as he looks at his family happily working together and the repeat and new customers they see year after year, he is rightly proud of the legacy he created.

“I’m going to predict that our grandchildren will work here too,” laughs Marilyn. “Vail’s sons have worked here part time already.”

Now the patriarch can rest easy, knowing that his company couldn’t be in better hands. As he and Marilyn get ready to spend the winter months in Maui, he knows where paradise is. It’s the place where his life’s work and his happy family live, work and play.