Thirty years ago, Brian Mulroney was the Prime Minister. Top movies released included When Harry Met Sally and Field of Dreams. Some of the most popular songs, available on CD or cassette tape, were Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler and Love Shack by the B-52s.
In Timmins, The Mermaid Gallery opened its doors. It was the first bathroom showroom of acrylic bathtubs and showers, and faucets in the city.
The business is marking its 30-year milestone this year.
Denis Gelinas has owned the Mermaid Gallery since 2007. From Timmins, he had been in construction for years before buying the business. Under his direction, it expanded to specialize in kitchens, bathrooms and lighting.
“I owned my own construction company and did installs for Mermaid for about seven or eight years and then purchased Mermaid shortly after,” he said. “I basically have three businesses in one and it can be hard to balance. The bathroom side, the kitchen side and the lighting, lighting and décor. It’s three different businesses.
“The bathroom is more technical. The kitchens, with designs picking from your colours and everything, is a bigger purchase and more time.”
From design to installation, and everything in between, Gelinas takes the customer from start to finish for their major home improvement project.
“You do work closely with the client,” he said. “Sometimes you quote it and wonder ‘how did that go?’ And they come in the next day and say, ‘let’s purchase, let’s do the order, let’s get the ball rolling.’ It means you did your job the first time.
“It is a big purchase. Bathrooms and kitchens are the two biggest purchases. You have to make sure it goes well, it goes smooth and that the customer gets what he pays for.
“It’s a one-stop shop and that’s what people like.”
When expanding the scope of the business to include kitchens, he did his homework to get the right suppliers involved.
“We acquired the kitchens about six years ago,” Gelinas said. “It took me about two years to find the right company and then when I went with Deslauriers kitchen cabinets, I was confident. When you have a company like this, people rely on you to make the proper choices, getting the proper product, the proper quality and affordability. That’s what we do best.”
While there is lots of competition on the internet to provide components for home projects, Gelinas said it doesn’t provide anywhere near the same level of service and expertise.
“The website is just a tool. You still need the face-to-face, the mom and pop shop, that’s what we are,” he said. “People did go to the web for a long period of time. But now people are coming back. They’re coming back to their roots and saying, ‘online, I’m never getting what I want.’ People are coming back. They would rather see, feel and touch.
“These big box stores, people are getting fed up with no service, no hands on, no face-to-face. If I’m going to spend my dollar, I want to make sure I know where it is, who I can talk to and if there is an issue, I want to address that person. There’s no more one to one. That’s what we offer, one to one.”
He also feels it is important to give back to the community. He helps support local charities as much as possible.
“We can’t support all of them, we’d be going bankrupt, I wish I could,” Gelinas said. “Give me Lotto 6/49, I’d be happy to support anybody.
“We did a lot of hockey, Timmins and District Hospital, Project Love, and I’m part of the Club Richelieu family and I’m very proud of that.”
Supporting community causes is part of his overall life philosophy.
“The key to success is a combination of many things,” he said. “To own a business, family support is No. 1. Without your family support for the long hours and dedication, you can’t operate a business and keep it successful for a long period of time.
“Second of all is the support from the community. It has to balance. Your work life and activities in the community … sometimes you work so hard you forget about your community. That’s what you don’t want. To be successful you have to balance everything. That’s a business owner’s life.
“Balancing your family life, your business and your community, it’s a big (job) but it’s worth it in the end.”
The Mermaid Gallery is located at 50 Shirley St. S. in Timmins. It is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Contact The Mermaid Gallery by phone at 705-268-5535 or visit their website.