In just over five years, River City Rock Products owners Frank D’Amore and Frank Corea have seen solid business growth, even during the pandemic.
For their customers, availability of product is in good supply — not so much when it comes to finding a parking stall outside their business and showroom at 457 Dene Dr., with pallets of product stockpiled on the lot and stored across the street.
Sourcing products has been their biggest task and as a result, they have seen growth within their business.
D’more said, they were fortunate to be able to continue working throughout the pandemic due to a smaller group of staff, maintaining their own cohort — something other companies were not so successful doing, due to the potential of an illness within a larger workforce impacting operations.
“We stayed open the whole time, we just followed the COVID protocols — stayed away from each other,” owner Frank D’Amore said.
“When clients came in, we stayed six-feet away from each other with masks on and did everything else over the phone, internet, email, Facebook and social media.”
D’Amore said just last year alone, they experienced four to six price increases for product (especially imported products) with most of their suppliers — seeing container costs and freight cost skyrocketing.
D’Amore said, with us it’s all about product. If you don’t have product, you can’t sell it.
“Every chance we get we hoard it. We bought more stock than we would normally have.”
Both D’Amore and co-owner Frank Corea put in lots of phone calls to as many suppliers as they could to locate products that could fill the gap in supply.
By being pro-active and smart-buying — finding out which products were available and pre-buying, they able to maintain a supply of product for the local market.
“We kept our landscapers, our masons, our installers pretty much equipped for the most part.”
D’Amore said while local builders and installers continue to work hard to get projects completed, he anticipates it will be awhile yet before staffing levels return for many local trades businesses.
“In our industry, CERB made it incredibly worse [for staffing] not so much for our business) but for local landscapers and masons, they couldn’t get any staff.
“Most of the reasons why, are because they could stay at home and go work for cash for people, or go work all of the time and get paid.”
“The capital part of it [CERB] certainly help a lot of businesses, being able to carry inventory.”
Staffing is the number one issue he hears on a daily basis from people walking into his business getting product.
Businesses are being creative with ways to entice workers back into the workforce, by using social media campaigns. He said it will be eventually work itself out to a new normal.