Some things never change, and Manley’s Stationery & Office Supplies is proof of that: even as they’ve evolved from selling yeast to textbooks to stationery and office furniture, Manley’s has, for over 100 years, prioritized customer service above all else. Manleys was founded in 1900 by Blanche and Tom Manley. In 1948, employees Fred and Ted Leaver purchased the business from Blanche, and since that time it has been run by members of the Leaver family. In 1978, Ted’s sons Peter and John took over the business. Since 2002, Peter’s two daughters, Carolyn and Lisa, have managed the business. The business was located on Lochiel Street in downtown Sarnia for many years before relocating to 152 Kendall Street in Point Edward.
Carolyn and Lisa both pursued careers in teaching before returning to run the family business. Both agree that they were always meant to return to the Sarnia area to join their father in running Manley’s. They have both brought a modern outlook to the century-old business. Since relinquishing the company to his daughters, Peter has enjoyed watching his daughters grow and change the company. He nevertheless continues to take part in his own way: he carries bags and wears hats with the Manleys label when he goes on his weekly trips to the local farmer’s market. He uses the opportunity to talk up the business that his daughters now run. This is the type of marketing that he is familiar with. “I want to see everything go on, forever and ever,” he says.
Manley’s is known for the high level of service that they provide to their customers. The staff is equally knowledgeable about office supplies and office furniture, each of which account for approximately half of their business. They emphasize the importance of ergonomics in all office furniture, and they will recommend chairs and desks that best suit the needs of each individual customer. Each piece of furniture comes with a minimum two-year warranty. Delivery and setup costs are also often included in their furniture pricing. Manley’s also sells stationery, and in 1983 they joined Basics Canada, a Canadian stationery and office supply buying group which gives them access to preferential pricing. They make sure to pass the savings on to their customers.
Manley’s offers an excellent workplace environment for their staff. They currently have twenty-two full-time and three part-time employees, many of whom have been with the company for twenty years or more. Carolyn notes, “They’re not just here for a paycheck. They appreciate the business and feel pride in what they are doing.” This positive employee outlook is in large part due to the satisfying nature of the job. “Our employees have all experienced the reward of knowing that we’ve taken what we know and we’ve helped someone,” Carolyn explains. While she recognizes that the future of Manley’s must include an online component, she also recognizes that what sets them apart from their competition is the excellent in-person service that they provide their customers.