Visionary. That word gets thrown around a lot when we talk about entrepreneurs. What makes a true visionary? It’s someone that can see the future – to realize which ideas have unlimited potential and which ideas will launch a company that is still going strong 50 years later. For the perfect example of such visionaries, we need to look no further than Otto Holzapfel, who founded PF Custom Countertops, and his sons John and Ed, who took the company to the next level.
It started in the late 60s. Otto was working for Clark Lumber when a new process called post form countertops was entering the market. Clark Lumber decided that post form countertops were not the right fit for them but Otto saw its potential. He decided to leave Clark and set up shop on his own.
In 1969 Otto launched PF (post form) Custom Countertops from his garage and quickly proved that he was right about how consumers would love the affordability, convenience, and range of options the new countertops provided. Combined with outstanding business practices and creating a great work environment for his employees, the business quickly outgrew several spaces. In 1979 PF Custom Countertops moved into its current location at 10417-174th Street, now operating out of nearly 50,000 square feet.
“We value service,” says John, president, of how PF Custom Countertops continues to impress long after other competitors entered the post form market. “We are a full service countertop supplier. We only manufacture in Alberta so that gives us a bit of an advantage; we can turn products around quickly depending on customer’s needs.”
He and his brother Ed, vice president, also point out that while they still offer an impressive range of locally manufactured post form products, PF Custom Countertops has expanded into granite, quartz, solid surface and other options.
John explains, “We added solid surface products in the 80s and also acquired a stone fabrication facility 15 years ago. Stone fabrication was a completely different process for us. It was a bit of an education to learn how the products work and there was some investment in the equipment and people to make sure we could manage this service properly.”
Like Otto seeing the value of post form when it was in its infancy, the brothers’ expansion into stone and quartz countertops was another instrumental step in moving the company forward and remaining at the forefront of the industry. For example, quartz has proven to be very much in demand.
“Quartz is very popular,” John confirms. “It’s very durable. It gives the look and feel of natural stone but with a higher quality. It’s very functional.”
Ed adds, “Quartz is more environmentally sustainable than granite too. It doesn’t have to be quarried out of a beautiful forest. You can source quartz raw, enhance it, and put together a countertop.”
PF Customer Counters’ full-service range includes removal and installation for retail clients, high-quality plumbing fixtures, and more.
Both John and Ed pursued post secondary education before coming to work full time at PF Custom Countertops. John studied business at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and Ed is a journeyman cabinetmaker. They both have fond memoires of helping their father in the shop during their childhood, starting by pushing a broom and providing labour support during school holidays. They grew up with the business, as have many of their staff.
“We are very fortunate to have longstanding employees,” smiles John. A number of them have been here for more than 25 years. Long-term employees mean we have a lot of experience and knowledge as far as how the industry works and what our customers want. It also allows us to take on some very complicated custom designs that fit architect and designers’ visions for their projects.
Taking care of their customers is a top priority, and the company maintains a blog so that those thinking about countertop installation can get the most current information about what’s available.
“There is so much information out there and people really want to research the products,” John explains of the blog. “The more correct information they have, the better informed they are and the better they can understand the right products for their needs.”
Customer care also means internal training so that all the associates can help customers choose products they need.
“We do a lot of work with our staff to make sure we are going to the core needs of what the customer wants and to be able to find the most appropriate product for them. There are a lot of products out there; customers watch a show and say, ‘this is what I need’ but it may not be the best product for them. We help to guide their decisions.” Ed adds with a laugh when thinking of the plethora of home renovation shows on television “Sometimes the timing of the installations in those shows creates problems for us!”
Seeing several trades come together in harmony to complete a massive home reno in under a week may be the stuff of television, but in reality, PF Custom Countertops’ products, timely installs, and services means you can see their work in some of Alberta’s most-frequented places, such as Boston Pizza, Booster Juice, Papa Johns, Browns Social House and Ikea. The company has also been selected for specialized projects such as the new Royal Alberta Museum and the Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife. To the owners, however, their greatest joy is serving every customer, from massive nationwide chains that are renovating across the brand, to the walk-in customers in Edmonton that want to upgrade a residential countertop.
Service and products are only part of the reason PF Custom Countertops has enjoyed 50 strong years in business so far. The core values Otto instilled in the company’s early days are still part of the operating structure today.
“It is important to be honest – do what you say you are going to do and deliver on your promises,” says Ed. “When it comes to working with the team, let people do what they do best without stepping on their toes. We have very loyal and longstanding employees because they want to be here doing the right thing. We empower them do their job how they see fit, as long as they know the overall path we want the company to be on. There is an alignment of goals.”
Giving back to various community causes is also important to PF Custom Countertops, who is happy to support the community that has supported them for half a century.
“Our 50 years of experience speaks to our trustworthiness, how well we know our product and how our customers are able to depend on us,” conclude the brothers. “The plan for the future is another 50 years. We are not a company that tries to grow by, let’s say, 25 per cent each year. We aim for sustainable growth, to keep improving and getting better.”
PF Custom Countertops thanks their suppliers, vendors, customers and supporters for a great 50 years. Ed and John also thank Otto and their mother Johanna for building the lasting company foundation, and for the life lessons and values they instilled as parents. John further thanks the Entrepreneurs’ Organization for its support and mentorship.
The entire team looks forward to helping Alberta residents and businesses have beautiful, functional, high-quality, locally made countertops for another 50 years.