When I was growing up, my parents owned a catering business. And like every other kid whose parents owned a business, I was pressed into service. I spent a lot of afternoons decorating vegetable trays and mini-cheesecakes and a lot of evenings replenishing empty food platters and washing up in a various clients’ kitchens. At the time, I resented it a little; I would have much rather been hanging out with friends. But as an adult, I am so grateful for the experience! I learned so many lessons about customer service, entrepreneurship and event planning that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else.
Consequently, I have a special place in my heart for family-run businesses. This Family Day, I thought it would be fun to profile a few of the family-run Petro-Canada locations.
The Johnson Family
First up, meet Steve and Leaha Johnson. Steve and Leaha operate a Petro-Canada branded fuel station that also includes an A&W restaurant in the small village of Valemount, BC - a village with the population of just over 1,000 people.
Located in the traditional territory of the Simpcw First Nation, part of the Secwepemc, or Shuswap, Valemount is located between Edmonton and Vancouver in the North Thompson Valley and is approximately 320 kms north of Kamloops. Located on Highway 5, Valemount is a wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts of all types. Mount Robinson, the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies, sits in Valemount's backyard.
Steve and Leaha have been Petro-Canada Associates for the last 4 years as operators of the Valemount Petro Canada. Previous to that, Steve worked at the Kamloops Travel Centre as an A&W manager for 4 years. They are both active members supporting the community of Valemount, and have been gold-level supporters of VARDA (Valemount & Area Recreation Development Association) for the last 4 years.
Leaha and Steve Johnson
PT: Thanks for sharing a bit about your family business! What's your favourite thing about Valemount?
SJ: I love how close the community is: you can walk anywhere and bump into someone you know.
LJ: I love how close I have become with so many people that we see every day at work, or that we work with through our kids’ school PAC and other groups we are a part of.
PT: What's the most popular item in your convenience store?
SJ: We work with a group here in the village that do catering and smoked meats. They provide all of our fresh in-house sandwiches - they are very popular!
PT: Do you have a favourite customer?
LJ: Everyone has a favourite customer, but we love them all. I think the favourites (and they are many) are the ones who come in to share how their families are doing and talk with us about ours.
PT: What does your family like to do for fun?
LJ: Our kids love Pokemon, so Steve collects cards and teaches them all things Pokemon. We enjoy movies, walks with the dogs, trips to the lake to collect tadpoles, roasting marshmallows. Really we just like being together.
PT: Describe your family member co-worker in one word.
SJ: Leaha is inspiring
LJ: Steve is incredibly kind.
Thank you, Leaha and Steve!
Next up, we checked in with Barb and Mike Futros.
Barb and Mike own and operate MTT Service, a Petro-Canada branded fuel station that also includes a sit-down restaurant, lounge and motel. Their business is a gathering place for the people in the small community of St. Laurent, MB.
Located in the traditional territory of the Ojibwa Saulteaux First Nation and the Metis People, St. Laurent is approximately 75 kms north of Winnipeg. The station is on Manitoba’s only major highway headed to Northern Manitoba. MTT Service is a natural stopping point for people traveling between the northern and southern regions of the province for commercial or recreational purposes.
Barb and Mike have proudly been Petro-Canada Associates for almost 20 years. Their kids, Emma and Donald, are also a key part of the business.
I caught up with Barb to ask her some questions about the business:
PT: Your business is a real family affair! Who all is involved?
BF: Mike, my husband, and I make sure the day-to-day operation of the station is handled. Mike maintains all the equipment, and I am the "accountant". Emma, our daughter, works multiple positions. She is a great GSA (guest service attendant), always polite and friendly, and she also waitresses in our restaurant. She loves interacting with the guests. Donald is our "maintenance" guy; he stocks and rotates all the coolers, cleans the yard and runs all the equipment for snow clearing.
PT: How did your family get involved with Petro-Canada?
BF: Many years ago a Petro-Canada territory manager named John Fenn would stop in and always say that this would be the perfect place for a Petro-Canada. After many years under another brand, we thought it was time for a change, and we made the decision to join the Petro-Canada family. The decision was one of the best we have ever made.
PT: What's the best thing about running the Petro-Canada in your community?
BF: St. Laurent is a small community and Petro-Canada fits in perfectly. Not only are we able to help our community directly, our customers are able to see how Petro-Canada supports other programs nationally.
PT: What are the pros and cons about working with your family?
BF: Oh boy, that's a loaded question! Every working relationship has its ups and downs, but I genuinely appreciate working not only with my spouse, but also my kids. For Mike and I, teaching the next generation what has taken us years to learn is priceless.
As an extra treat, Barb and her family recorded a short video for our readers with some of the answers to our questions. Thanks, Barb! You can really see why your location is such a beloved part of the community!
Finally, we check in with Leesa Bakker. Leesa is located in Edmonton, Alberta. She operates 11 Petro-Canada sites in Edmonton and the surrounding area.
PT: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me, Leesa. Tell me about your family business.
I am surrounded by close family members who are focused on our success. They are supportive in the daily challenges of operating 11 locations and 70 team members. I can count on my family to adapt and excel at the ever-changing retail landscape. Our leadership team includes my big brother, Darren Morgan and his wife, Sharon. Plus my niece, J’Nayia is working part-time while attending the University of Alberta.
Darren is someone I can count on to be there when needed. He has worked with the team since 2008 in many different roles: starting out as a GSA, moving up to managing a location, and not long after, managing multiple teams. Staff and managers look up to him for his leadership and experience.
Sharon is our financial operations manager. Her amount of experience and passion for the business cannot be measured. We started our Petro-Canada career at the same time, and I was lucky enough to have her join my team in 2010. Her support and dedication to our business and team is immense; she is always training and encouraging managers to excel. She is very focused on processes and efficiencies that make the team stronger.
Sharon, Leesa and Darren (left) | Jenna Bakker (top right) | J’nayia Morgan (bottom right)
As the family quickly grows up, we will soon have the opportunity to work with five more young adults, ranging in age from junior high to university, in the near future. They are all patiently waiting for their opportunity to be part of the team. It is exciting to share our passion for the business with the next generation!
Working with close family is not without challenges, but operating a team 24 hours a day, 365 days a year does not mean we allow ourselves to be consumed by work. We avoid “shop talk” when we get together as a family, as we value and respect the role that we each play in the success of the business. It is a journey we are very proud of.
The Bakker and Morgan Families
PT: What does your family do for fun - to help blow off some steam?
LB: Our family loves sports: hockey night at the arena and anything outdoors. We also love road trips!
Sharon and Leesa
PT: What’s one of your favourite moments working with your family?
LB: The Amazing Race Canada came to one of our stores and filmed a challenge: they had to spend Petro-Points for snacks in order to get the next clue. Great memory.
A big “thank you” to Barb, Mike, Leaha, Steve and Leesa who shared their stories with me! And Happy Family Day to all of you and to our readers!
~ Kate T.