After 25 years in business, Polar Tech is changing hands.
Owner and founder Gord Olson has turned the business over to the store’s manager Joey Sutton.
“I started Polar Tech 25 years ago in 1994, so 2019 is the 25th year,” said Olson.
“It started from a toolbox and grew to the biggest recreation store in the Northwest Territories and the North. Joey’s been working with me for about four, five years and he showed interest in buying the company and I thought well, he’s got some great ideas and it’s a chance to put a new set of batteries into Polar Tech.”
Olson is a licensed small-engine mechanic who built the business on service and even designed and built the building himself.
“When we sell, we service,” said Olson. “We don’t sell you something and then turn around and say, we don’t know how to fix it. There’s nothing we can’t fix, and that’s something a box store will never get.”
After over two decades running Polar Tech, Olson said he’s looking forward to some time off but will still be around to help out the new owner.
“I want to get back out there and start enjoying some of the toys that I’ve been selling for the last 20 years,” he said. “So I’m going to step back now and mentor him for a few years to help him ease into the business a little better. I don’t want to throw away that 25 years of experience just yet, so I’ll be around to mentor him from afar and watch Polar Tech grow from afar.”
The official handover was on Wednesday, and Olson said they have plans for a send-off celebration in the summer, once the parking lot is free of snow.
At first, it was scary to step away from the business, Olson said.
“I mean this was my baby, I did birth it 25 years ago and it’s grown,” he said. “It grew up to 18 people working for me now.”
But Olson felt Sutton is the perfect person to take things forward, and both of them feel Polar Tech is well-positioned for future growth.
In terms of the future, Sutton said he plans to continue bringing in new products and diversifying the business, which already sells everything from Ski-Doos to solar panels.
“We just opened a new sewing company within Polar Tech to do wall tents and tipis and boat canopies, boat tops, travel covers,” said Sutton. “If it needs sewing we’re able to do it here. As far as the business goes, I’ve been here almost five years and if I had to write a story of a perfect foundation I don’t think I’d be able to write it as good as what I’m being left with here.”
Sutton has been the manager for a few years and feels he has a good understanding of it.
“But I’m a little bit nervous for sure,” he said. “This is a big wheel, we sell hundreds and hundreds of things downstairs so there’s a lot of things we have to know. We have to be product experts in so many things.”
“It’s his twenty-five-year stint,” said Olson with a laugh.
Olson was previously a director at the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce and is also involved in Skills Canada, which he plans to dedicate more time to now that he’s not running a business.
“If I help with skills and apprenticeship, that’s the guys working in the shop and we can compete nationally. So Joey’s guys I can hopefully mentor them to compete on a national basis for small engines,” he said.
One thing that won’t change under the new owner is their commitment to helping people have fun. Their slogan, “where the fun begins” is embroidered above the left breast pocket of their shirts, and speaks to the core of their store, said Olson.
“We can’t wait to come to work,” said Sutton. “The people we talk to every day they’re excited, they come to buy something to have fun on. I said to Gord today, as far as making a living goes, it’s not a bad one.”
New owner Sutton said he is confident that his business has nowhere to go but up.
“Polar Tech is going to be around for a hundred years if I have anything to do with it,” he said.