Home Furnishings Association member Andrew Tepperman of Tepperman’s is not one to go by the book. When the industry zigs, Tepperman frequently zags. That’s probably why his 94-year-old company is such a hit in Ontario, Canada.
So, when Tepperman’s announced it was opening a store – number 6 if you’re keeping score – in its biggest market to date, the conventional thinking was it would also be opening its biggest store.
Just the opposite: The new Ancaster store outside Hamilton is Tepperman’s smallest. The company took over the 45,000-square-foot space abandoned by Sears a few years back in a total rebuild from the interior to the exterior.
With limited space, Tepperman’s had to do a strict edit on product and what to display. “It really challenged us to put our best foot forward with the best products,” says Tepperman. “We’re going in confident with what we are offering.”
So far, that confidence is being rewarded with strong sales. The store opened Aug. 9 and will celebrate with a grand opening Aug. 30.
The Ancaster store joins the Tepperman family alongside its five other Ontario stores in London, Sarnia, Kitchener, Chatham and its flagship in Windsor, which reopened the same day the company announced it was expanding into Ancaster.
In preparation for the Hamilton-area launch, Tepperman’s opened a pop-up store at a nearby mall. Besides selling some furniture, there was an added, intended benefit: It’s there the company signed its first 50 employees.
There’s the zig again.
“A lot of them came from other retailers in the region, others had never had any selling experience,” says Tepperman, “but we have a credible training program internally and we use a lot of our suppliers as well.”
The story goes back to 1925
The Tepperman’s story started with Nate Tepperman, who began selling products door to door in 1925, offering credit as a form of payment.
“He would go knocking on people’s doors selling what he had available to sell, finding out from people what they needed. If he had it, great; if not, he’d get it,” says Noah Tepperman, Andrew’s brother and partner. “Then he’d come back every week to just collect a couple of cents.”
It’s that model the Tepperman grandsons follow with their retail outlets today.
Much like fellow HFA member Badcock Home Furniture & more in the United States, Tepperman’s is one of the last large retailers in Canada that still offers in-house credit.
Windsor was the first brick-and-mortar store for the chain, built in 1929. The company expanded into Chatham 52 years later, then into Sarnia and London in the ’90s and Kitchener in 2016.
Geography influences expansion
The move into the Hamilton market, according to the Teppermans, is one of geography. Windsor is landlocked to the west by the Detroit River and the Motor City on the other side and to the north by Lake St. Clair. “We can’t go any further that way. And we’ve been slowly moving east over the years,” says Andrew.
The secret to longevity for the business, according to Noah, is the family’s business values, which they say put customers and employees ahead of profits.
“We’re not owned by an anonymous group of shareholders; we’re not driving toward a share value that’s constantly producing a certain quarterly result or dividends that look like this,” Noah says.
“Our commitment is first and foremost to our employees, the people who make our business happen, and our customers, and taking care of those people is always job number one for us. It’s not about just purely a financial bottom line.”