With 1,510 residents currently within the ages of 15 to 19 years, our region has a strong emerging workforce.
Success story: Kootenay Granite
Longtime business owner Rick Klassen values Cranbrook’s affordability, central location and lifestyle
Kootenay Granite has a commanding presence on Cranbrook’s main commercial strip. The 15,000-square-foot building houses a showroom, fabrication shop and warehouse, features that also make it stand out in its particular industry.
“To have this space in a bigger centre would be very, very expensive,” said Rick Klassen, owner of Kootenay Granite. “Usually, granite shops have all their inventory outside and they’re a lot smaller.”
But thanks to affordable real estate, Klassen’s store can lean more to the grandiose, which has proved advantageous for his customers as well. With 7,000 square feet of showroom space, they can see, touch and choose the actual slap for their countertop. It is then templated, fabricated and installed by Kootenay Granite.
Most of their product is sourced from Brazil, India and Italy. Getting it to Cranbrook is surprisingly streamline.
Depending on their origin, slabs of granite are shipped to either Vancouver or Montreal. They travel by rail to Calgary and are then moved by truck to Kootenay Granite.
The store also offers marble, quartzite, porcelain and engineered quartz for countertops.
From sports goods to granite
Kootenay Granite began in 2007, but Klassen’s story dates back to 1983 when he and his brother started Gerick Sports in Trail, B.C. As the business established itself, they opened more stores and eventually Klassen, who was born and raised in Nelson, moved to Cranbrook.
He opened and operated Gerick Sports in Cranbrook until a friend approached him with the idea of starting a granite fabrication shop.
Some market research later, Klassen sold Gerick Sports and started Kootenay Granite. For the first five years, it operated in Cranbrook’s industrial park. But in 2012 and shortly after his partner retired, Klassen expanded the business to its present location.
Today, Kootenay Granite employs 18 full-time staff and operates in the Cranbrook-Kimberley Development Zone and beyond. Klassen appreciates the region’s central location to East and West Kootenay communities, such as Invermere, Fernie and Rossland.
Nearly 100 per cent of his business is residential homes. With that in mind, Klassen has a good idea of who’s moving into the region.
“It seems lately there are quite a few younger people moving from the big cities, like Toronto and Vancouver,” he said. “You see them moving here because they realize the lifestyle is just second to none.”
A self-proclaimed Kootenay boy, Klassen might be a bit biased. But easy outdoor access, short commutes and affordable real estate are tough to beat.
“I can see what people who are moving here see,” said Klassen. “I would want it too, just from the perspective of being able to own a home, condo or other real estate.”
He added, “From one end of the city to the other, it’s a 10-minute drive. I live on 10 acres out of town and takes me seven minutes to get home.”
In his downtime, Klassen enjoys cycling on the Rails to Trails and skiing at Kimberley Nordic Centre and Kimberley Alpine Resort.