Green Business Feature: Laketown Furnishings – Building community and keeping a low carbon footprint

By LeRae Haynes –

Laketown Furnishings in Williams Lake represents the best of small-town businesses, providing stellar customer service, supporting a vibrant, diverse community, and working to protect the planet.

Bob Sunner of Laketown Furnishings believes in investing in people and local, sustainably sourced BC and Canadian products. Photo: Lisa Bland

The store opened its doors in Williams Lake in June 1971. Current owner Bob Sunner grew up in the store and said when he and his brother were very young they played tag in the store and a lamp got broken.

“I’m still paying it off,” he said.

After finishing school in Vancouver in 1991, Sunner returned to Williams Lake to work in the store to help out his dad, who wasn’t feeling well. And he’s been here ever since.

Over the years he said he’s seen big changes in the community. “Small business owner-operators are getting older now, and a lot of young people leave the small business community to take jobs in resource industries because they pay so well,” he explained.

“It can be very challenging to attract young people to small business. We made the decision to bring in families from out of the country to settle in Williams Lake and go to work.”

Thanks to their efforts, these young families have become part of the community. Hard-working young people have been trained to provide excellent customer service while making Williams Lake a more vibrant and diverse community.

Another change he has seen is people becoming more environmentally conscious, caring about how the products they buy are made and where they’re from—a true concern for social conscience and for the footprint left behind.

“We buy our products from places throughout BC and Canada, including 100 Mile House, Quebec, Abbotsford, Ontario, Vancouver, and Winnipeg,” said Sunner.

“This leaves behind a lower carbon footprint. We know who built these products and know the labour force was not exploited or mistreated—they receive a decent wage. This also keeps the money local and going back into our own economy.”

He said people are starting to realize that they support their local economy when they support their local businesses. “When they spend their money strategically, local businesses hire more people and create more prosperity,” he added.

“They’re also worried about child labour and workplace safety, as well as regulations regarding building products. In Canada, we’re subject to higher standards and are subject to environmental protection and consumer safety.”

From the beginning, Laketown has been ahead of the curve, seeking out Canadian products, which are higher quality. Sunner explained that box stores, by contrast, import foreign-made products, which they can sell less expensively with minimum conversation required with customers. “They don’t want to invest in employee product knowledge when marketing is simple: three hours training is enough.

“Our staff is trained to design a piece of furniture with a customer no matter how long it takes. You can choose your own couch or chair covering with hundreds of choices—leather or fabric.”

He said you can choose your own foam density, with the assurance that most of the foams are bio-foams, which are soy based, reducing the use of petroleum products.

“We believe in ‘renewable,’” he said.

Product training is constant and ongoing at Laketown, and they stand behind every product they sell. “We believe in investing in our people and are with you for the entire life of the product you purchase, whether you need to replace or repair. We believe that a good quality product is when you want to replace it, not that you have to,” he continued.

“Reducing our footprint on the planet will ensure that future generations enjoy a bright future.”

Sunner is immersed in the volunteer community, including Community Policing, Citizens on Patrol, Toastmasters, and the Williams Lake Business Improvement Association.

“It’s important to me to volunteer because it builds a better community,” he said.“I enjoy the positive energy of fellow volunteers and interacting with friends and neighbours.”

“I believe that many volunteer activities offer opportunities for personal growth not available in everyday life.”

Stop by Laketown Furnishings for many green choices in furniture, kitchen ware, bedding, large and small appliances, and other specialty items. Laketown Furnishing carries eco-products such as organic latex mattresses, duvet inserts, Canadian goose down duvets and pillows, as well as BC made couches and wood furniture. For more information, visit www.laketownfurnishings.com, stop by 99 2nd Ave North, or phone (250) 392-6933.

LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of music with kids.

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