After 13 years of working as an ambulance attendant, Mike Bourque was ready for a change. “I didn’t want to do that job until I retired. I wanted something enjoyable and personally satisfying. The day I left my job as an ambulance attendant, a friend asked if I could build him some new kitchen cabinets.” Bourque didn’t have any formal training in any trade but he had renovated his home, completed a number of carpentry projects and showed a lot creativity in his designs. “I built my friend’s cabinets in my Dad’s garage and before I was done that job, another friend asked me to build cabinets for him. After that, it just never stopped.” Bourque applied for a new ventures loan, rented a small shop and started Bourque Woodworks.
A few years later, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) hired Bourque to fix problems with their slot machine bases at their Woodbine Casino in Toronto. Bourque and his team had to get licensed and approved to do this work. Before they knew it, they were in demand and travelling to OLG locations throughout Ontario for a variety of projects. “At one point, 60% of our business was from OLG and I needed a larger shop, so I leased space here at our current location, 329 Centre Street, Petrolia.” As their work with OLG tapered off, Bourque focused on additions and custom renovations.
Bourque Woodworks became Bourque Renovations, providing both residential and commercial custom cabinetry, renovations and general contracting. One year ago, Bourque built an addition onto the shop to accommodate his growing staff. “When I started out, it was just me and my wife, Ann. I was working ridiculous hours and knew I had to hire more help. Now there are 13 of us including a full-time project manager, interior designer, interior decorator, two estimators, and seven tradespeople.”
Bourque’s team guides their customers through the entire process, from initial design and layout, to the selection of materials and colour palette. “We are a one-stop shop. We coordinate each project from start to finish.” They use digital imaging technology to show the customer exactly what the final design will look like. “Some customers have handed us a key before leaving on vacation while we complete the project in their absence. This is a testament to the faith and trust our customers place in us.”
Bourque’s biggest challenge is finding skilled tradespeople here in Sarnia-Lambton. He looks for someone who is both talented and a team player. “There can be a lot of stress when you own a business. But I love the challenge of building. It’s great when a homeowner thinks something can’t be done and I find a way to do it.” Most of Bourque’s work comes from repeat customers or referrals. “Referrals say a lot about the work we are doing. A satisfied customer is the most rewarding part of my job.”