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Franchisee fills a niche

Thandiwe Vela
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A young business major is meeting the city's demand for windshield repair with a new summertime enterprise.

Wearing his "chip happens" T-shirt, 19-year-old Ian Anderson has set up shop in the Extra Foods parking lot on Old Airport Road, with the territory's first Deco Windshield Repair Inc. franchise.

Yellowknifers with compromised windshields have been streaming up to his tent since Anderson opened on May 12 at what he has found to be a very convenient location for the 15-minute service.

"Most people come here, they'll park their vehicle, I'll explain to them what I'm going to do, and then they go off shopping," Anderson said. "And usually by the time they come back, it's good and ready to go."

The repair booth will not be leaving Extra Foods' parking lot anytime soon, because the business has an agreement with the grocer's owner, and also has a city business licence.

Originally from Carstairs, Alta., Anderson has always had a knack for business, he said, since selling pop drinks outside his locker at Sir John Franklin High School. He also started an unsuccessful video game business two years ago in Yellowknife.

He just completed his first year of a four-year University of Alberta business management and economics program, and his latest business venture, the windshield repair business, has been received well.

"I'd say you could ask anyone who's already been a customer for me here, I'm sure they would all say they were definitely satisfied with the repair," Anderson said.

Yellowknifer Peter Pagonis was one of those customers on Monday morning.

"It takes very little time to do the job," Pagonis said, as a small chip on the windshield of his four by four Ford Ranger was being repaired.

Pagonis estimates he gets about four chips or cracks in his windshield each year from small rocks and other small objects flying into it - a common account for those who drive on the roads of the North, making the demand for the windshield repair business in this location obvious.

"It's anywhere with bad roads, really," Anderson said. "And the North has bad roads."

Based on his first 10 days of operation, Anderson estimates he repairs about 15 cars per day.

When a car pulls up, the first thing he does is look at the damage on the layers of glass and plastic filming that make up the windshield to see if the chip is repairable. Any chip larger than a toonie in size does not qualify for his lifetime money-back warranty. A price estimate is given after the windshield is analyzed, and then the repair process beings.

Anderson, who was told about the business opportunity by a university professor, has little background mechanic experience, but underwent intensive manufacturer training in Calgary before opening the business.

The windshield repair process involves the vacuuming of the air out of the chip or crack, and the insertion of resin in its place. He makes sure to get as much air out, and as much resin flowing as far into the chip or crack as possible, with his Delta Kit tools, which include an open cylinder bridge tool.

Anderson is the lone employee and only technician at his site, so the business takes its toll in long hours, since he works everyday but Wednesday, including all day Saturday and Sunday.

"All of my friends work usually nine to five throughout the week," he said. "So weekends are good for me business-wise, but socially they're not that great."

He also does mobile windshield repair in the evenings.

Wednesday was selected as his off-day because the other franchises have found Wednesday is the slowest day for windshield repair. The booth is also closed if there is windy or wet weather.

Anderson plans to stay open until mid-to late-August, and has not yet decided if he will operate the booth again next year, or seek out another business venture.

Calgary-based Deco has more than 200 seasonal locations across the country.

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