Jeff Smith and his wife Jessica Schlager were travelling back to their home in Calgary from a visit to Parksville about a year ago when the two began talking about moving to the Island — and potentially running a business.
“It started out as ‘What if we came to work here? What are we going to do if we came out here to work? Well, what if we worked for ourselves?’” Smith said. “That got us thinking, what if we did buy a small company out here? Could we do it? What would we want to do?”
The two, Smith said, eventually found a commercial listing on ReMax for Tevan Enterprises Inc., a warehouse and delivery service located in Parksville that specializes in confectionary products as well as some specialty grocery items.
“Nothing really seemed to fit us or (fit) financially, and then we came across this one,” Smith said of Tevan, adding that selling candy seemed like “a fun business to get into.”
Tevan Enterprises, Schlager said, has been around for about 25 years.
“The previous owner had built it up from nothing, and he decided it was time to get out as it was getting close to retirement for him.”
Smith and Schlager, and their two-year-old daughter, Maria, moved into their new home in Parksville Sept. 1. By Sept. 23, Schlager and Smith took over the company.
They had no experience in wholesaling, said Schlager, who has a background in management for the Alberta Energy Regulator.
“It was a fairly vertical learning curve; it still is,” she said.
But the previous owner and his wife, she said, have been very helpful.
“They’ve been great with the transition and getting to know customers, and getting to know vendors,” Schlager said. “Every once in a while (we ask), ‘Where do you get these?’ or ‘Who do you buy this from?’ He’s always, always, always got time for us.”
Fortunately, Schlager said, the family had been visiting her parents on the Island for the past 14 years, so they were familiar with Parksville.
“It’s better than going somewhere completely blind and knowing nothing and no one,” she said.
Since taking over the company last year, Smith said, they had to learn about regions other than Parksville because of their distribution area. Tevan Enterprises services the Island from Shawnigan Lake to Courtenay and Comox, and west to Tofino, said Smith, who had a background working in the transportation field with licensing, compliance and safety training.
“I had to learn all the area in a short amount of time,” he said. “Now I know every back road. If there’s construction, I know how to get around it.”
Despite the learning curve, and being a business owner for the first time, Schlager said she really likes working and living in the region.
She said one of the things she’s always liked about the community was the shop local mentality.
I think that’s where this company has been successful. Because we are quite small, there is some big competition,” she said of the companies that supply large chain stores. “That’s certainly not who we are, but we do supply the small mom and pops, the little convenience stores, those sorts of things where we don’t have minimum orders.
“Our delivery truck is basically a rolling candy store. Everything we sell is on our truck, so if you’re just a little guy who says, ‘I might only need a couple of bags of bulk candy this week,’ we could sell that to you.”