Not all superheroes wear capes. Some wear tool belts. Over the past 20 years, a fleet of trucks emblazoned with superheroes wielding plungers and pipe wrenches has told Calgarians all they need to know about who saves the day in a plumbing, furnace or hot water emergency: Pete the Plumber.
The iconic plumbing outfit started in Pete Archdekin’s backyard shop in 1999 when he and Andrew Prince were brought together by a shared love for the job and a desire to work hard to help people. Archdekin’s love for the Hulk found its way into the corporate logo—a big, powerful force racing to the rescue—that adorned the company’s first truck followed by Prince’s truck featuring the equally powerful Fantastic Four character, the Thing.
“Partnering up was the best thing I ever did. We were both on the tools working 12-hour days, and it was a lot of fun. Back then it was just two trucks and two guys with a great work ethic,” says Archdekin.
That work ethic translated to more clients, many of them repeat customers, and a need to hire more like-minded professionals to help them meet the burgeoning demand. By choosing to only bring on plumbers that possessed superior skills and a dedicated customer focus, Archdekin and Prince safeguarded the high standards on which the company was founded. With each person hired, a fun new truck sporting a new superhero took to the streets. By the early 2000s, Marvel Comics took exception to Pete the Plumber using its characters but allowed the company to continue to use its original hulk-inspired character provided he wasn’t green.
They trademarked and registered that logo and name in Canada.
“We changed him to blue, so it worked out. All the other characters on our trucks now have been created for us,” says Archdekin. “People come to me and say hey, what do you think of my character? If I like it, I’ll buy the rights for it and put it on a truck.”
These characters on the company trucks, whether it’s the blue behemoth or a pipe-carrying buff monkey, have made the company the most recognizable plumbing outfit in town; and, the quality plumbers driving those trucks have made it the biggest service company in Calgary with the best reputation.
With word-of-mouth recommendations and a solid reputation came serious expansion. It became necessary to move from the backyard shop to a space in the southeast in the mid-2000s to accommodate its expanding fleet and a team of administrative executives led by Pete’s invaluable general manager, Jackie Prince.
A few years after that, the company had grown to the point where Archdekin had to dedicate most of his time to estimating while Prince continued working on job sites. Pete the Plumber soon outgrew its space again, moving into its current 112 Avenue SE location as it approached its 10th anniversary.
“I will put on the tool belt for a big job or to meet Andrew if he needs another set of hands, but he won’t leave the tools. He can’t sit behind a desk,” says Archdekin. “We have no ambitions on retiring. I want to be carried out of here in a pine box while selling a toilet.”
Archdekin and Prince clearly love their work and take pride in helping people in any way they can. The team takes the time to find out about a client’s specific needs and provides honest answers to help them arrive at the best possible solution. Archdekin attends trade shows and other events in an attempt to connect with customers to gauge how well the team is doing. If customers are happy, he wants to hear about it and if there is a problem, he wants to know so he can fix it. The partners take pride in being accountable and accessible, standing behind their work with a two-year no-questions warranty while offering service and support well beyond that. This level of service and quality has been a huge contributor to the company’s success, as has its diversification over the past decade.
Prince earned his electrical ticket and now there is a two-man electrical division to service clients’ various HVAC needs. They are kept busy throughout the summer with air conditioner installation, service and maintenance, and in the fall they turn their attention to furnaces.
Pete the Plumber is one of the largest purchasers of heating equipment and the largest hot water tank installer in the city. The company has great staff retention, with 18 employees being with the company for more than six years and nine for over 10 years, so customers know the company has the expertise and experience to handle anything. Their commitment of the staff is the true success of the company and with 24/7 service, there is always a designated hot water installer, a drain specialist and a plumber on call to handle any after-hours emergencies that life throws at clients.
“We are a full-service company with 37 trucks, two full-time salespeople in the showroom, a service manager, an inventory person and six administrators. We do complete drains, complete plumbing services, and we have a great showroom so you can come in and see the options,” he says.
The showroom is a feature unique to Pete the Plumber. The 2,500-square-foot space offers a great place for the salespeople to meet with clients to discuss products and options tailored to their situation. These options are displayed as they would be in a home–hooked up and fully functional. Each of the dozens of faucets, shower stalls, tankless water systems, steamer units, walk-in bathtubs, and toilets can be tested, and the sales team can demonstrate the strengths of each product in a hands-on way. From filling a walk-in tub to allow a bathing-suit clad client to try it out to flushing golf balls down a toilet to showcase its power and resiliency, Pete the Plumber goes the extra mile to make certain that clients understand how things work, what is available, and why they make the recommendations they do, all to ensure that clients are satisfied at the end of the day.
“People come to us because they know we are going to do the job right,” says Archdekin. “We are constantly growing to serve the community because of our reputation, because of our fair pricing, because we take care of people. We have a massive repeat clientele—once we’ve been in your house, you’re going to invite us back.”
People invite Pete the Plumber in, both literally and virtually. For seven seasons, Archdekin has filmed a CTV show that is equal parts entertainment and information. He and his co-star Dino the chihuahua, along with various special guests, offer how-to tips and information about plumbing all the while having a blast. This charismatic plumber is a local celebrity, appearing on television as well as throwing swag into the crowd at Flames, Stampeders and Roughnecks games, and supporting events for as many causes as he can. From donating signed Stampeders or Flames items for silent auctions to sponsoring and hosting charity golf tournaments, Archdekin and Prince carry their desire to help far beyond their service trucks.
“We want our community, we want Calgary, to succeed everywhere and in every way,” he says.
Pete the Plumber has helped Calgarians succeed in their causes and in conquering their plumbing challenges for 20 years and armed with charisma, passion, expertise and a pipe wrench, these superheroes are just getting started.