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Abell Pest Control – Celebrating 100 Years

Abell Pest Control – Celebrating 100 Years

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Photos by Rebecca Hardscastle

As far back as 3000 BCE, people have sought creative ways to protect their health and property from pests – first with herbs and oils, soaps and sulphur, and later with insecticides. The industry has come a long way since then, and Abell Pest Control has been a trailblazer in the field and a fixture in the industry for the past 100 years.

“We are pioneers of technology. It started with my grandfather. He was very inventive and loved his potions and creating products,” says John Abell, CEO of Abell Pest Control. “You name it, he did it.”

Earl Abell was an inventor and entrepreneur who dabbled in bespoke suits, oil importing and debt collection before his foray into pest control in 1924. He started The Waverly Chemical Company in the basement of his Toronto home where he formulated and distributed cleaning supplies, insecticides and herbicides. Earl became a founding father of the pest control industry in Canada, establishing the high professional standards that became the foundation on which the generations that followed built the Abell legacy.

Earl’s son, Ralph, represented the second generation by ushering in an era of customer-centric innovation after his service in World War II. He rebranded the Waverly Chemical Co. to Abell Waco, and decades later Abell Pest Control to differentiate the services division from the product manufacturing and distribution arm, which they renamed Gardex Chemicals Ltd.

Ralph expanded the service area across Ontario and when his son, John, joined the business in 1976, he brought their cutting-edge innovation to the Canadian West and the United States. The company continued to grow exponentially with John at the helm.
Abell Pest Control became the largest Canadian-owned national company, with a team of about 700 maintaining a presence in every province and territory as well as a number of states in the U.S. . Thanks to its focus on people and 100 years of cultivating a culture of respect, professionalism, integrity and innovation, the company played David to the billion-dollar industry Goliaths and competed well in the market.

“We develop a relationship of trust with clients. We’re a value-based, service-based company and I think that is what has given us the competitive edge to compete against some of those large foreign companies,” says John.

Abell Pest Control is ranked as the 16th largest pest management company in North America by the Pest Control Technology Top 100 and was named one of the Best Workplaces in Canada and the Best Workplace for Women in 2023. John is proud of these honours and continues to bring women, including his daughter, Elizabeth, into the business. Like her father and grandfather, Elizabeth grew up around the business but decided to spend much of her early career working outside the family business before returning to the fold in 2023.

“Gaining experience in different industries was hugely beneficial and it was important for me to discover what I loved to do outside of the family business,” says Elizabeth Abell.
She returned with forward-thinking creative ideas about higher level growth opportunities. Through her commitment to relationships and openness to learn from everyone around her, Elizabeth has gained the team’s respect, setting her up to carry on the family’s legacy as the company grows.

“You can’t appoint people to leadership. They have to earn the right to lead. She has earned the right to take the company into the next generation,” says John.

Abell is well positioned for that future as it continues to provide excellent value and service to residential, commercial and industrial clients. Over the years the company has led the field in creating and adopting more effective pest management solutions with a major focus on prevention, incorporating technology platforms and elevating professional industry standards to effectively combat everything from bed bugs and flour weevils to rodents and roaches, wherever they happen to be.

“We’ve been 7,000 feet down a mine shaft, on an oil rig in the Northwest Territories, on ships on the Beaufort Sea, we’ve done pest control on submarines and fumigated ships, worked in grain elevators and in food manufacturing plants. We’ve seen and done it all,” he says.

No matter the pest or situation, Abell has experienced technicians trained to eliminate and even prevent pests efficiently, safely and economically. Technicians undergo extensive training at Abell University where they learn the skills required as well as the science behind how and why it works. Each person and position is important to the company so every protection is put in place to keep technicians safe on the job. John strives to give employees the confidence and encouragement to reach for success; Abell employees know they are valued and appreciated so they thrive.

One needs only to look at the current leadership to see that John walks the talk. In 2023, Brett MacKillop became Abell Pest Control’s president after starting at the company more than 40 years ago as a technician and working his way up through the company, and Karen Furgiuele was hired as a salesperson and worked her way to the Gardex Chemicals president’s office. The Abells are always looking for potential in the hardworking staff and are thrilled to reward it through incentive-based bonuses and promotion opportunities.

“Pest management is a recession-proof industry with excellent career advancement opportunities. It’s a career accessible by all, and Abell promotes those who are customer-focused with a good work ethic,” says Elizabeth.

An amazing team is the key to any company’s success, and Abell has a stellar group of dedicated professionals that maintain the Abells’ high standards. Many employees stumbled into their careers in pest control and found they loved the freedom, flexibility and culture of the job so have stayed for decades. They are the heart of the company and the Abell family values their opinions and insights.

To prove it, in honour of the 100th anniversary Elizabeth and John are travelling across the country to engage with every employee one-on-one to thank them for their service and to get to know them. They are gathering feedback on the employees’ perspectives about client relations, their experiences and what’s important to them, and they are using that information to create the future vision for the company.

“We are making sure every single voice is heard to contribute to the foundation of our company’s future. By listening to our people, we ensure that vision is as accurate and authentic to us as possible,” Elizabeth says.

Abell Pest Control is completely authentic as it protects clients’ properties and livelihoods in the field while supporting community charities as well as staff through mentorship, scholarships and advancement opportunities. And with a focus on service, quality and integrity, the fourth generation is driving this impressive Canadian company toward another successful 100 years.

3851 Manchester Rd SE,
Calgary, AB T2G 3Z8
(403) 252-3155 | abellpestcontrol.com

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