Expertise, products draw customers to building materials store

Five decades later, Kelly Lake Building Supplies continues to serve Sudbury’s contractors and do-it-yourselfers

What started as a building materials supply solution for a group of Sudbury contractors has lasted over 50 years for an entire community.

Kelly Lake Building Supplies, named after the original location on Kelly Lake Road, has been providing a wide range of products to contractors and customers since 1971.

Steve Choquette, managing director since the early 1990s, explained how the building supplies company has retained its name despite moving to Brady Street more than 30 years ago.

The original store, a 1,000 square foot showroom, was built on Kelly Lake Road in the south end of town. When they moved to Brady Street, closer to the city’s downtown, they decided to keep the name. Not only did the Brady Street location offer more space at 11,000 square feet, it was centrally located and attracted an increase in retail customers.

The 1970s were a difficult time economically for the town, with mine strikes impacting local businesses. But they survived those early years and weathered the storms of the decades that followed.

When big box stores and online shopping were introduced to the Sudbury market, it had little impact on their business. Choquette believes that their expertise and quality products are what keep their customers satisfied and coming back.

Whether it is for a contractor or a do-it-yourself owner, the building supplier is committed to providing customer service. This is demonstrated by the little things like having a receptionist answering the phone. Customers can always call the store and get the answers they’re looking for.

“Kelly Lake Building Supplies is committed to having a friendly voice answer our phones and direct customers to the right department,” Choquette said.

In high season during the summer months, they have almost 50 employees. “We have quite a few employees over 40, and some 30 plus and quite a few who now have over 20 years of service,” Choquette shared.

Choquette himself started in the purchasing department in 1989 and became general manager within five years. Dedicated employees have expertise in their field and are available to assist contractors and DIY customers who can often come to the store several times a day to stock up.

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In addition to the showroom and staff, they have a fleet of trucks that deliver products to construction sites first thing in the morning, while showroom staff often find customers waiting at the door in the morning to stock up.

They also offer mobile tool truck, kitchen designs, windows and doors, garage and shed design, deck design, painting and key cutting. Kelly Lake Building Supplies now distributes Brown’s Concrete products such as interlocking bricks and retaining walls.

When COVID shut down and most businesses sent their employees home, many people finally found the time to tackle those home improvement projects they had been putting off.

“During the pandemic, we had to hire three receptionists, it was so busy,” Choquette explained. “When the COVID mandate to work from home was in place, within two weeks all the home improvement stores exploded overnight; it was overwhelming.

They were getting hundreds of calls and doing their best to fulfill all orders. However, it didn’t take long for supplies to be purchased, and restocking was much more difficult.

“The massive demand has not yet made its way through the system. Offshore supplies are coming in now, but we are still catching up,” Choquette explained.

The City of Greater Sudbury reported in the 2021 Economic Bulletin that building permits in 2020 hit an all-time high and the construction industry continues to show resilience despite the challenges encountered throughout the pandemic. These challenges included increasing shipping costs and supply chain disruptions.

There is a healthy construction industry in the city, and Kelly Lake Building Supplies can attest to that.

“I feel positive for the city and Northern Ontario. We may be entering a slower period, but we will be good in the long term, ”predicts Choquette.

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