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Honouring the Industry Pioneers

 

As part of its 75th anniversary, the Quebec Furniture Manufacturers’ Association (QFMA) honoured a number of pioneers of the Quebec furniture industry. These people have at least 50 years’ experience in this industry, and some have achieved this accomplishment in the same company! The QFMA honoured these pioneers, during its annual convention, which was held at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal Hotel.

 

The QFMA has also acknowledged the generous contribution of some of the former presidents of its board of directors.
 

 

The pioneers

Maria Romano

Maria Romano stands out as a female pioneer in a male-dominated industry. Born in Italy, Ms. Romano immigrated to Canada in 1952, where she met Gino Romano. In 1961, Gino started making sofas in his sister-in-law’s garage, and he delivered the sofas on the roof of his station-wagon.

 

In 1962, the G. Romano Inc. Company was founded: Gino looked after the production while Maria handled the administration duties. In 1963, Maria and Gino were married and this union would lead to the birth of three daughters. The business, meanwhile, enjoyed a steady growth for 30 years.

 

In 1994, after Gino passed away at the age of 53, Maria took over the presidency of the company. Her daughter, Natalina, and Natalia’s husband, Rick, worked in the business from 1994 to 2014. G. Romano got through the economic turbulence largely because of Maria’s sound financial management and business savvy.

 

Currently, the company manufactures custom-made, high-quality upholstered furniture which it sells throughout North America. And since 2014, Maria has been bolstered by Théo, the husband of her eldest daughter Anna; Théo is the general manager of G Romano and a member of the QFMA’s board of directors.

 

After 55 years, Maria is still the president of G Romano and oversees the company’s daily activities. She regards G Romano’s employees as part of her extended family! It’s a real family affair!
 

Nicola Amendola

For Nicola Amendola, it all began in 1964, when he was studying industrial design in Italy. In 1967, he immigrated to Canada at the age of 18, and once he arrived he started working in the furniture industry.

 

In 1968, he was hired at Jaymar where he worked as a planner and designer for 18 years, along with being a specialist in leather furniture. In 1987, he and two business partners founded MIRANI FURNITURE, a business he would leave in 1992.

 

To carry on with his passion for design and to put his creativity, skills, and attention to detail to good use, he teamed up with his brother-in-law and founded another business, Italdivani Meubles Inc. in 1993.

 

In 1999, he became the sole shareholder, and his business continued to be on the cutting edge of the latest trends and manufacturing techniques. Since its creation, ITALDIVANI has carved out a niche in the furniture industry and it has earned an outstanding reputation in Canada.

 

For the past several years, Nicola’s children - Marina and Mike – have been working with their father in the family business, which they will one day take over.

 

Mr. Amendola could not be with us to receive his plaque, so his business partner, Jean-François Nolin, President of Huppé, has accepted it in his name.

Jacques Canin

A native of Bordeaux, France, Jacques Canin served in the military and then completed his training as a furniture designer and draftsman. He then made a decision that would change his life: he immigrated to Canada.


In 1951, Victoriaville was the Canadian furniture capital, so it was only natural he would settle there. A year later, he became a self-employed designer, and in 1955, he decided he would also make the furniture he designed. In doing so, he founded Vic Store Fixture, and this was the start of a bold and innovative adventure.

 

Mr. Canin proudly transmitted his passion for furniture design to his two sons, Domynique and Fabrice. The two sons would eventually take over the helm of the company. And, after 62 years, it continues to be an ongoing story, with the third generation of the Canin family. One of Jacques’s granddaughters, Fannie, works in the business with her husband, Charles-Éric. And on it goes!

Marcel Couillard

Marcel Couillard wasn’t the founder of a company…but he sure has melted and welded a fair amount of metal in his time because he’s been working with metal at Amisco for 50 years!

 

Hired in 1967 at the age of 18 by Léonard Poitras, the grandfather of Réjean and Claude, who are currently Amisco’s president and vice-president, Marcel Couillard has been with the same company for a half-century! He’s not only a valiant worker, he’s very loyal to his employer!

 

And to think that when Marcel started his career in the furniture industry, one of his brothers tried to get him to join the crew of a ship. He decided to keep his feet on the gound, and that was a smart decision since the boat sank off the coast of North Carolina.

 

Over the years, Marcel has become a versatile employee who has adeptly handled a wide range of jobs in the company. 50 years after he arrived at Amisco, he still has no intention of retiring, because he likes what he’s doing. He’s definitely another furniture industry devotee!

 

Photo credit: Maxime Paradis for LePlacoteux.com

 

Guy Lacasse

Guy Lacasse founded his own business, Groupe Lacasse, 61 years ago. In the early years, Guy and his two brothers, Réal and Réjean, made sewing machine cabinets: a total of one million units were produced in Canada over a span of 20 years. Near the end of the 1970’s, with declining interest in this type of furniture, Lacasse bought a first business specializing in office equipment in 1979.


A real visionary, Guy Lacasse founded an industrial park in 1980, and that led to the creation of a dozen small and medium businesses: he wanted all of his suppliers to be nearby (Parts, Metal, Finishing, Systems, Chairs…)
The period between 1980 and 2000 saw a series of acquisitions, the selling of shares and partnerships that contributed to the company’s growth.


In fact, many Lacasse family descendants work in the furniture industry: Réal’s sons, Sylvain and Patrick, and Guy’s three children - Pascal, Nancy and Robin. Robin is currently the CEO of Mar-Kit.


In 2000, Groupe Lacasse, which had sales figures of $110 million, was sold to Haworth. In 2012, Guy Lacasse, his son Robin and Sylvain Garneau (the current CEO of the company), bought back Groupe Lacasse. Since then, Groupe Lacasse has had continual growth through various acquisitions in Canada and the United States.


At the age of 78, Guy Lacasse is still active in the company and is in great shape. He’s making sure the members of this impressive family fulfill their dream…

 

His son Robin Lacasse, CEO of Mar-Kit, has accepted his plaque in his name.
 

Bruno Selmay

Bruno Selmay arrived in Germany in 1954 with his job qualifications as a mason, and he started his career in the furniture industry in 1963 at Colibri Furniture. He was one of the first employees at Colibri, where he worked as a cabinet maker. Since he was a mason by trade, over the years he built add-ons to the factory himself. He served in various posts at Colibri before becoming the plant manager.


When the two owners decided to leave the company in the early 1980’s, Meubles Mobican Furniture Inc. was created and Bruno became the plant manager. In 1988, Bruno decided to buy the business, with his son Patrick and a group of employees.


As enthusiastic as ever, Bruno still works a few half-days a week, with his son Patrick, and his grandsons, Nicolas and Mathieu… Bruno shares his know-how and his professional, as well as life experiences.

 

Former chairs of the board of directors

Yves Caron - 2003 to 2005

After earning his degree in economics, Yves Caron landed a job as the manager of a major account with the Heinz company. In 1988, at the age of 25, he fulfilled his dream: he became an entrepreneur! With his brother François, he founded the Trica company. 


After a modest debut that had its share of pitfalls, Trica earned an important place in the Québec and Canadian furniture market. The company’s contemporary, innovative and high-quality furniture is distributed in Canada and exported to the United States.

Yves, who is a dynamic and dedicated person, quickly got involved in the Québec Furniture Manufacturers’ Association as an administrator. Hailed for his management skills, Yves was named the chair of the QFMA’s board of directors in 2003. He carried out this mandate for two years before passing the torch.

In 2017, after 29 years as Trica’s president, and making sure his succession in the company was well-prepared, Yves decided to take a much-deserved retirement.

 

Michel Deveault - 2000 to 2003, 2010 to 2012 and 2014 to 2016

Michel Deveault is a repeat QFMA chairperson! He headed the board of directors on three separate occasions, from 2000 to 2003, 2010 to 2012, and 2014 to 2016… along with being a board member for many years.


An Operations Research graduate from the Military College in St-Jean, Québec, Michel went on to be an infantry officer in the Royal 22nd Regiment. 


In 1984, he started his career at Canadel. His contribution to the furniture industry, in addition to his key role at Canadel and the great support he has provided to the QFMA, includes various collaborations with governmental authorities, notably in establishing diversification funds and the ACCORD Meuble segment. 


Over the course of a career of more than 30 years in the family business, Michel was instrumental in making Canadel a leader in the Canadian furniture industry. Currently, his four sons, Jean-Philippe, Tristan, Timoty and Tomas have started their respective careers at Canadel. The tradition continues! 
 

Fernand Fontaine - 1990 to 1992

Fernand Fontaine started his career as the General Mamager of the Société Coopérative Agricole de La Présentation, in the Montérégie region, at the age of 20. 


In 1976, he obtained his CGA. In 1992, he received the title of CGA Fellow, bestowed in recognition of outstanding achievement in the accounting profession. Mr. Fontaine has supported many philanthropic initiatives during the course of his career. In 2004, he was honoured with the highest distinction in the accounting profession by being named the winner of the John Leslie Award, given to an outstanding CGA in Canada.


In his “spare time”, Fernand Fontaine also founded Dutailier in 1977, a thriving manufacturing company that is marking its 40th anniversary in 2017. Mr. Fontaine is still the company president and his sons, David and Bruno, are following in his footsteps in the business. 


It is also noteworthy that Fernand Fontaine chaired the QFMA’s board of directors from 1990 to 1992. He also played a key role in the first NAFTA negotiations in the 1980’s, by defending the QFMA’s brief before House of Common members in the Canadian parliament.


Daniel Pelletier - 2012 to 2014

A visionary, leader, doer, creator, highly motivated and hard-working, endowed with an entrepreneurial spirit from an early age, Daniel Pelletier, fresh off earning his degree in industrial design, founded his company in 1980.


He is the president and Chief Executive Officer of the group, which became Artopex in 1993, upon the purchase of the business of the same name. Artopex wouldn’t be his first nor his last acquisition; in fact, Daniel has nine of them.

 

In addition to masterfully managing his five production units and his staff of more than 700 employees, Daniel is deeply involved in his community. He shares his experience and know-how while serving as a speaker and by sitting on various boards of directors and committees.


And to complement his already long days, he serves as a mentor for his two sons, Martin and Francis, who will succeed him in the business and ensure the continuity of Artopex and the values their father has established.

 

Réjean Poitras - 2005 to 2007 and 2016 until today

The current chair of the QFMA’s board of directors, Réjean is in his second mandate in that position, which he also held from 2005 to 2007…

 

Réjean, who has been the president and CEO of Amisco since 2000, a company in which he has worked since 1996. Interestingly, his career in the furniture industry began in 1994 at the QFMA, when he was the Credit Service Manager.


Réjean’s achievements while he has been at the head of his company, include:

 

- Groupe Gibo was acquired in 2011, a business specializing in wood upholstering and finishing 

- His company was reorganized in 2013

- Individual annual meetings with every employee were also implemented

 

Réjean is also fluent in English and Spanish. He is the father of three children who are still too young to be able to work in the business. One final note about Réjean: he has adeptly carried out his duties as the QFMA’s board chair since 2016.

 

George Reinitz - 1994 to 1996

George Reinitz, the founder of Jaymar, is among the former chairs of the QFMA’s board of directors.


A native of Hungary and a Holocaust survivor, Mr. Reinitz is an orphan who immigrated to the province of Québec at the age of 16, when he started working at Montréal Upholstery. When he was 24, he founded his own company; JAYMAR, which was so named in honour of his parents: JAY for Jacob and MAR for Martha. 


George had a lot of objectives at the time: providing his employees with good working conditions by having a top-notch factory, and making trendy furniture. The first model produced by Jaymar in 1956 was a sofa-bed, an innovation at the time!


Mr. Reinitz was acclaimed for his manual skills and meticulous attention to detail. After years of diligent work he built a new 128,000 square-foot plant in Terrebonne, and the city named the street in his honour. Under the leadership of George Reinitz, Jaymar posted sales figures of $42 million, with the help of its staff of 345 employees.


In 2000, after 44 years in the business, George Reinitz retired and sold to an American company. And, since 2014, Jaymar is again a Québec-owned business, owned by Daniel Walker.