Ali and Garrett are partners in The Finer Things, which is a fine, proud name for a new, enthusiastic business. “We provide a really good service, we hold ourselves to a high standard and we love working on high end cars.”
Garrett: I’ve been in the automotive industry for more than 20 years, I was born and bred into it. My dad used to race stock cars and I’ve always been mechanically inclined. I worked on and off in construction, even went out west to the oilfields, but I’ve always come back to this industry and finally decided to branch out on my own. Do I love cars? Yes I do. I’m a pro-amateur drifter (drift racing) and we do events all over, Mossport, Cayuga, Shannonville, Quebec. I used to race with my dad but I’m drifting on my own, he came out with me once and said never again! It’s different to his kind of racing, it looks like chaos, but you’re very much in control.
Ali: I’ve heard it called figure skating with cars! Me? I’m into my third year in TV and Film Production at Loyalist, but my background is in marketing and writing. Now we have our own business I’m taking on the bookkeeping and learning more about detailing every day. I’m using my marketing skills, too. We’ve been out pounding the pavement and making contact with dealerships. I was so happy when one gentleman we called on said he’s seen our sign and visited our Facebook and thinks we’re doing a good job on marketing so far. The fact we showed up at his place made an impression, too.
Garrett: My stepfather who’s an entrepreneur and runs several businesses here, so I grew up in the County, although I went to school in Belleville. I left, as young men do, and was working in Oshawa when I met Ali.
Ali: I was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie. My dad’s family came from Italy and my mum’s family is native, Aboriginal. I grew up in a great big family with lots of entrepreneurs, from restaurants to my dad’s shoe repair business. I had role models. My mum and dad were not well off to start and they impressed on me that you have to make your own success, the small business world was natural to me. Why the County? Garrett always brought me here to visit family and I liked it a lot. We finally got to spend a Mothers Day with his mum this year and we went to The View restaurant at the golf course and saw this property was For Lease. Three days later we were talking to Tom the owner. Originally it was just the commercial space but Tom was happy to rent us the whole property. We jumped on it. I have lived out west, up north. This is the smallest community I’ve ever lived in and nothing would make me happier than to be able to stay here and work here and be part of the community – because it’s awesome.
WORKING IN A SMALL TOWN:
Garrett: People say we could have more clients in Napanee or Belleville, or Kingston, but I know Belleville is saturated with detail shops. There’s room for more in Kingston but that means travelling and I’d rather live and work here. This property is ideal for our needs, and The County is not saturated in any way, shape or form. Apart from Stormy’s, there’s just us and a couple of small-scale guys and we are already busy. I’ve given up my 9 to 5 in Belleville and I’m fulltime here now. We just signed a deal with ARI Fleet Management so anybody who uses that company can use our services and bill ARI directly. That’s nice.
Ali: Say if someone is visiting Sandbanks and their car is dirty they can get it cleaned before they go home. And that”s just visitors. There is also quite a car culture in The County. Lots of classic and heritage cars and plenty of high end exotics too. The first two weeks we were here we saw more Porsches and BMWs and Audis than Garrett did in Belleville. There’s a market here for our services.
Garrett: We did a 1957 Chevy, original paint, it was absolutely immaculate with about 20,000 km’s on it. Was I nervous working on it? No. I’ve been doing this since I was eight or nine years old. Some guys use light meters and paint thickness meters and stuff like that, but I have a lot of hands-on experience and I know what I’m doing. We do interior and exterior, shampoos, spot staining the whole deal. We’re looking at chip repair for windscreens, maybe tint and vehicle wraps down the road when we have more money behind us. I managed an auto parts store, Auto Add-ons in Belleville for two years and I’d love to expand and do parts supply. There’s room here for that.
LIVING HERE AND PLANNING THE FUTURE
Garrett: It feels good to be here. We’ve been so busy setting up we haven’t socialized much, but I know some of the business people on Main Street, and our landlord knows everybody so he’s been very helpful suggesting connections.
Ali: I’ve been burning up the email! I’m in touch with tons of people who I haven’t met yet! The owner of Need-a-Hero Comics in Belleville gave us some good contacts here in The County, and Rebecca Lamb has been amazing putting us in touch with other businesses we could potentially partner with. Just going out and talking to people works for me. I was in the new Ralph’s Meat Market and we chatted about being a new business and supporting local ventures. Next time I went in there was a stack of our business cards right there at the cash. I love the way people want to pay it forward.
For the future we’d love to work with the golf course, because we are so close, and the wineries and wine tours and arts trails and everything. It takes about three hours for someone to have their car cleaned and there is so much for people to do here, so many great experiences we can point them to. Rebecca has been awesome giving me contacts for wine people and the golf course and the person who maintains the County vehicles. Running a business is new to me but I’m happy and proud of myself that I’ve been able to meet and partner with people already. This is a great place to do business.
Garrett: It was stressful starting this while I was working 9 to 5 in Belleville. It’s fantastic now I’m fulltime here. Different kind of stress! But it’s all my own and I can deal with it the way I like to, by working hard and getting things done. It was so satisfying to get our sign up. We made a point of doing things in the right order, making sure we were ready before we made too much noise about our business. We are fully registered, fully insured and ready to roll. We didn’t want to stumble or have to backtrack. We pride ourselves on doing things right, behind upfront and having really high standards. That’s why we called it Finer Things.
Ali: We’re making it look good, too, lots of painting and putting up shelves. We use a lot of water so we’re putting in a rainwater system. We’re on a well and we truck water in when we have to, but we have a huge cistern. We’ve heard about the Aquaswift app that tells you when your well is low, the inventor is a local guy. And they’ve even got an app that will call the water supply people for you. We call George’s Water Haulage, and we really enjoy seeing George. Every time he comes he books a detailing! He’s been here three times with two different vehicles. He’s our first repeat customer and he’s very satisfied.
For startups or businesses looking to expand or re-locate to The County, you can fill out this Business Inquiry Questionnaire, and the Community Development Department will respond in 48 hours.