It started as a small mom and pop store, with just three employees serving a few Nanaimo retailers in 1963.
This year, Johnston Wholesale celebrates its 50th year in business, with more than 60 workers supplying independent retailers all over B.C. and Alberta with a wide variety of mainly health and beauty products, as well as some general merchandise.
The company was started by Howard Johnston in 1963 who decided it was time to start out on his own after working for Victoria-based Black & Company Wholesale in the region for a number of years. His son, Earle Johnston, took over operations approximately 15 years ago after Howard retired and has been running the increasingly successful wholesale business, located on Dorman Road, ever since. Since it began, Johnston Wholesale has been the only company of its kind in Canada that services independent retailers with extensive in-store management of their health and beauty products.
With more than 10,000 product listings and retail customers across Western Canada, Johnston said the business has become very fast-moving and vibrant during his time at
"We were very small when we began, serving just the mid-and north-Island areas, but we've expanded a lot over the years," he said. "There are some problems and challenges with transportation, with seven per cent of our business now off-Island, but were a family-owned business with the family living in Nanaimo so there has never been any discussions around moving elsewhere." Johnston said the focus of the company is on supplying independent retailers as opposed to big box stores and major retailers that have their own supplier networks.
He said that while the company deals primarily in supplying health and beauty products for its clients, it also provides other merchandise to keep up with the demands of its customers.
He said the secret to success of the business is multi-faceted, but acknowledged that the ability to anticipate the needs of the clients is one of the main reasons for the company's longevity.
"We also focus on building good working relationships with our customers," he said.
"We're doing well so we'll just keep plugging along for now and keep willing to change with the times and the needs of our customers."
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