Interview with Joel Roper and Martin Kalsbeek

Words by Michelle Heslop. Photos by Stephanie Hull.

Martin, tell us briefly who you are and why you decided to purchase Hourigan’s Flooring. I grew up in Delta, B.C. and later attended BCIT to learn more about business. After spending 26 exciting years in the technology industry in both Canada and the U.S., my wife, Dawn, and I decided to shift gears and settle in Victoria in 2008. It was important for me to spend less time in airports and more time with family and friends. I have always had an interest in residential construction, and when looking for a local well-established business to acquire, Hourigan’s was a great fit.

Under your leadership, Hourigan’s has reached its ten-year milestone. Can you describe the transformation of the business since you took over? Hourigan’s was already well-established with an excellent reputation for value and service. We are always investing in the business, but our focus during the first five years was to modernize the company. We focused on building a strong support team for our sales staff and provided new tools to increase the amount of time they could spend with customers. During the next five years, we focused on carefully expanding our product selection so that today we truly have the widest selection of flooring and tile products in the city. Most importantly, we focused on the customer experience. New home construction and existing home renovations are stressful. Our staff and facilities are focused on making the selection of flooring and tile enjoyable and stress-free.

You have mentioned that positive employee culture is at the foundation of Hourigan’s success. What does this look like? We recognize that each of our employees has their own unique life circumstances. We embrace that at Hourigan’s. For example, most of our employees have pets, children, parents, or a spouse that requires them to be away from work from time-to-time. Our culture is such that we manage our business to satisfy the needs of both our customers and employees. Our employee turnover is minimal while our customer satisfaction ratings are excellent. We enjoy the largest quantity of five-star Google Reviews of any flooring store on Vancouver Island.

Hourigan’s has gone through a pretty significant brand shift over the past several years. Why was this necessary and how do you feel it has changed the perception of the company? It’s difficult these days to make any improvements to your home without a permit. Most of our customers involve the services of a builder, designer, or architect to help them with their projects. We have made investments in our business to better serve builders, designers, architects, and retail customers. Our showroom is state-of-the-art while remaining comfortable with five design stations, two coffee bars, modern washrooms with infant change tables, large screen computers available to customers to research products or display their house plans, customer wifi, wide aisles between all displays for comfort, and lots of available parking. It is normal to have a steady mix of builders, designers, architects, and retail customers in our store on a daily basis.

You recently expanded the showroom to create “The Wood Room.” What can customers expect from this new space? We were presented with a wonderful opportunity to expand our showroom to a total of 10,000 square feet. The 4,000 square feet of new space became the home of a concept we call The Wood Room at Hourigan’s. It features over 900 large-format, hardwood display boards from 15 unique suppliers. All of the large sample boards are available to sign out and take home. Our suppliers tell us that there is no store showroom in Western Canada better positioned to serve the hardwood needs of customers than The Wood Room, which is in addition to our traditional showroom that displays all other flooring products.

Working with homeowners has always been a part of your business, however, Hourigan’s has a strong connection with the design/build community in Victoria, including your presence with the VRBA Care Awards. How have you fostered your relationship with professionals within this industry? Joel Roper has spent time over the past number of years building relationships and partnering with designers and builders on hundreds of projects. We have since expanded our contract sales team to handle the increased business. For the past five years, Hourigan’s has recognized the importance of the Victoria Residential Builder Association. We have enjoyed partnering with the VRBA each year as a Gold Sponsor of the CARE Awards which recognizes excellence in residential construction on Vancouver Island.

What is your prediction for Victoria’s growth over the next few years? I am optimistic about Victoria’s growth in home improvement and new home construction in the next few years. We see an increase in home renovation activity, smaller footprint homes, and multi-family projects. Victoria is a very desirable place to live with a healthy mix of private and public investment, and regardless of economic sentiment, we will continue to see a steady demand for housing. With our team of thirty customer-focused employees, forty experienced installation crews, and 10,000 square feet of state-of-the-art, fully renovated showroom, we are positioned well to serve the flooring and tile needs of Victoria, regardless of the project size.

When you aren’t living and breathing the world of flooring, how do you unwind and recharge? We enjoy time with our kids and grandkids who all live locally. I am also an avid cyclist and enjoy spending time with friends riding around Victoria and throughout the peninsula.