Spend any time at all talking to Howard Macklin, President and Owner of Weston Tile, and you can quickly see how passionate he is about his business and its nearly 75 year history. Founded in 1942 by Howard’s father, Charles, today the Toronto-based company is one of the leading suppliers of quality ceramic tiles in the Greater Toronto area.
“My father worked as a bookkeeper for a tile company during the Depression Era,” says Howard. “When the company denied his request for a raise, he decided to start his own business and compete with his former employer.” Charles partnered with a local contractor to form Weston Tile and began selling ceramic tiles on a wholesale basis to builders and tile contractors.
Wholesale contractor sales remained the heart of the business throughout the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, but the 1970s brought widespread expansion of the selection of available tiles and the decision was made to open a brick-and-mortar storefront and focus on retail sales. “When my father started out, there was very little choice – two style of floor tiles and maybe 10 colors of wall tiles to choose from,” laughs Howard. “Today we have one of the largest selections in North America with more than 5,000 tiles to choose from!”
While Howard started working in Weston’s warehouse during the summer months when he was just 13 years old, his future with Weston Tile was anything but a certain career path. “When I graduated from high school, I wasn’t ready to go to university or work at my father’s company. I basically lived a hippie lifestyle, traveling around Europe, Asia, and Nepal trying to figure out what I wanted to do in life,” he says. His travels took him to some very poor countries that gave him a greater appreciation of his life in Canada and the family business. On his return, he went to university and earned a BBA in Business Administration from York University.
In 1976, while working at a large downtown Toronto accounting firm and working toward his CA designation as a Chartered Accountant, Howard decided it was time to go back into the family business. “My father was aging, and Weston Tile was going through some tough times,” he says. “I had a decision to make — either take over the business now and keep it alive or become an accountant.” Howard decided to quit and go to work at Weston Tile and he’s never looked back. “It has really been a life-long love of mine,” he says. “It was the greatest decision I could have made.”
While Howard’s father remained sharp and active in the business for years — continuing to drive to work well into his 90s – he was able to offer practical advice and guidance on the ins and outs of the business to his son. Now semi-retired himself, Howard is preparing to hand over the reins of the business to his son, Toby, a software engineer who, like his father, decided he would rather be working in the family business. “He decided that working with computers was not as much fun as playing with computers,” jokes Howard.
“The most rewarding part of owning a business is knowing that your leadership makes it a success or failure,” says Howard. “We have a long history of delivering a great selection of quality products with competitive pricing, and some very loyal employees that offer the best in customer service. I’m very proud of that.”
For nearly eight decades, Weston Tile has grown and prospered in its same location, making the most of every opportunity and weathering every challenge, including the emergence of the home renovation superstores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. “We thought that Home Depot would kill our business when they first appeared,” says Howard. “But we are able to compete with them on price, with a much larger selection and much better service so those big-box stores have not impacted our business.” Adds Howard, “Due to the home renovation boom and the popularity of home renovation television shows, our sales have increased every year since the early nineties.”
Howard declares that switching to Sloan Partners for Weston’s accounting needs was one of the best changes he made after taking over leadership of the company. “Our old accountants were charging too much money,” he says. “I worked with (Sloan Partner) Jerry Paskowitz at the accounting firm where I worked and had read somewhere that he was a partner at an accounting firm, so I gave him a call. We’ve been with Sloan Partners ever since.”
Over the years, Sloan has offered advice on everything from legal transitioning of the company, tax planning and even marketing. “They always seem to be able to steer us in the right direction for all our needs. I can always pick up the phone and ask a question, and they are at the ready on the other end to help with any of our needs. We’ve always had a very positive relationship with Sloan.”
Weston Tile is located at 698 Weston Road, Toronto.