In the 1970s, Jerry Palko regularly got calls from contractors and DIYers looking to buy quality cedar products, but as a lumber distributor, he couldn’t sell direct and had to say no. The obvious demand for these products ignited his entrepreneurial fire and in 1978 he and his wife, Bev, opened The Cedar Shop to meet it.
The small specialty store flourished and soon moved into a larger building on 42 Avenue SE to accommodate its growth. They operated there for 36 years, offering every cedar product imaginable, from shingles to decking. After Jerry passed in 2007, Bev carried on running the business, but she couldn’t do it alone.
“Bev hired me in 2015 because the company needed new leadership and management help,” says Mitch Wile, president of The Cedar Shop. “We were trying to compete with the big box stores in the marketplace and to succeed we needed a better facility so we could service our clients better.”
Mitch, who had extensive experience in the building business, made it happen. They had great brand recognition in the area and wanted to stay close so when a building across the street became available, they jumped at the opportunity. In 2018, only months before Bev passed and left the store to sons Tyler and Brad, The Cedar Shop moved out of the 11,000-square-foot building and into their current 53,000-square-foot facility. It now boasts a 15,000-square-foot showroom, ample storage, an onsite assembly mill and manufacturing space where carpenters construct beautiful custom furniture and yard accessories including cedar barrel saunas and custom lattice.
While the industry struggled through the downturn in Alberta, the new location breathed much-needed life into The Cedar Shop. Choosing to invest in more inventory so customers never left disappointed paid off and allowed considerable growth in a down market. Then COVID pandemic shut down travel in 2020 and people were staying home.
“The renovation market went crazy (with people) improving their backyards, fences and decks,” says Mitch. “We focused on making sure we had plenty of product in the building and we continually put new products on the floor.”
The company also invested in its delivery fleet so it could implement free delivery to remove barriers to shopping at The Cedar Shop. While they sacrificed their previous delivery fee revenue, delivery service more than paid for itself in increased sales. And as COVID relented, the Shop continued to get busier.
Customers came for the quality cedar decking, lumber, shakes, shingles and siding that they couldn’t find anywhere else, but they came back because of the incredible service and selection of products that extended far beyond just the store’s namesake wood. From an impressive list of exotic woods like ambrosia maple, walnut and rosewood to a choice of composite, treated or cedar decking, The Cedar Shop has amazing options to complete any project.
It is one of the largest suppliers of treated lumber sourced from Spray Lakes in Cochrane and customers can give it the perfect finish with The Cedar Shop’s quality lines of SICO Proluxe oil-based stains and Sansin’s water-borne ones.
The team is dedicated to giving above-and-beyond service and exceeding expectations. The knowledgeable staff and well-stocked showroom help customers find what they need quickly so they can get back to their projects. That is why it has become a favourite stop for contractors as much as weekend carpenters embarking on DIY projects.
One of the most asked about projects is cedar saunas. While The Cedar Shop has incredible lines from builders like Bramari Design Build & Sauna Builder, complete with Harvia Sauna Heaters on offer, many people still want to do it themselves.
“We get so many people who want to build their own saunas, but they don’t understand what it actually takes. We are currently designing kits that will offer three different sizes for customers to assemble,” he says.
The Cedar Shop is a great partner for customers, and the innovative, agile business has come into its 45th year stronger than ever. But what is more important to them than the bottom line is being a vital part of the community. As such, the company supports the Mustard Seed, Salvation Army and Heaven Can Wait animal rescue and proudly sponsors the Alberta women’s curling champions, Team Skrilik, as they leave their mark in the sport.
Whether in curling or business, The Cedar Shop recognizes the importance of having more women involved. Bev was the first female-only owner in a male-dominated industry and Mitch is continuing in her footsteps by encouraging women and young people to work in construction. He launched a high school internship with the CBE and The Cedar Shop welcomed its first two interns, Olivia and Begaiym, who gain credits and experience at the company. These young women have the benefit of great mentors in the business and Mitch hopes they’ll stay on as they head to university.
“It’s important that young people, especially women, view our industry as a career choice,” says Mitch.
With great staff in place and unbeatable products on the shelves, Mitch Wile is excited to see what’s next for the iconic Calgary business.
“We’ve been here 45 years and people still can’t believe we have all this,” he says, and he invites Calgarians to visit them online at Cedarshop.com or visit the showroom, breathe in the smell of cedar and see it for themselves.