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Celebrating 30 years of business in North Bay

Ecotrex persevered the economy, multiple moves, to still find a niche and thrive in North Bay

Wayne Sulliman knows when Elvis calls you for help, that means your business must be pretty special. 

Sulliman, owner of Ecotrex Army Surplus and Work Clothing Wearhouse on Pinewood Park Drive recalls back in the days of the Heritage Festival, he got a request from a member of the Flying Elvises (now known as the Flying Elvi) to have his equipment repaired before showtime.  

"There is one thing that stands out was during the Heritage Festival days and one day we had the Flying Elvises' as one of the attractions the festival hired," recalls Sulliman. 

"One of the Flying Elvises had ripped his parachute and us being an army surplus store he looked us up locally and came in with his parachute and asked us if we could borrow one of the sewing machines we had on location here and he came in here to repair his parachute to make sure that it worked during his act at the Heritage Festival."

Of course, Elvis said, "thank you very much," and the rest is history. 

But for Wayne Sulliman, it will be him and not Elvis leaving the building on April 2 for the very last time.  

In conjunction with the businesses' 30th anniversary, Wayne will be handing over the keys to his son Glenn to take over the business.  

He says the April 2 date is significant as he did not want Ecotrex to be part of an April Fool's joke.  

"I did not want to incorporate on April 1," said Sulliman. 

"So we did incorporate and open up our doors on April 2, 1992 and here we are 30 years later, and not only will we be celebrating the 30 years but there will be a passing of the torch on that day as I will be retiring and my son Glenn Sulliman will be taking over the business.  

All Elvis jokes aside, Sulliman says it will customers he will miss the most.  

"Any business owner that is retiring will certainly say the thing they will miss the most are the customers'; the people that they interact with on a daily basis," he said. 

However, owning a business like this does not come without its challenges,

"We did get through the pandemic and fortunately, we were able because a good portion of our product is PPE and safety supplies so it was an opportunity for us to stay afloat. We were able to survive and that is consistent with other challenges that most businesses face nowadays such as competition on the internet, for example, staffing issues," he noted. 

Sulliman originally brought a recycled clothing business to North Bay from their operation in southern Ontario back in the early 1990s.  

"Logistically it worked out well for us to set up shop here, we originally started in the recycling business and in addition to that, we had family up here so we looked at it as an opportunity to move and discontinue our business down in Hamilton," he said. 

Sulliman thought at the time there was an opportunity to get into the clothing recycling business up here.

But the company they were working with in Hamilton ended up closing shop. That company was supposed to purchase all their used clothing that had been collected, bundled and was ready for shipment. 

"That company went under and we were left with a huge bill and no market," said Sulliman calling that hit number one. 

The move did not come without other challenges early on. Sulliman had to make three moves within the first three years of opening in North Bay with one year stops on Wallace Road and Booth Road before moving to Gibson Street. They rented a building in that location for about a decade before making another move. 

"We decided to move the location to a more suitable location on Pinewood Park Drive which gave us a lot more exposure and more square footage," recalls Sulliman. 

"The rest of that is history," he added. 

Sulliman believes his secret to success has been his tireless work ethic.  

"Success is predicated on a number of different factors, noted Sulliman.

"Primarily your ability to produce niche products. It has not been easy, it is a seven-day-a-week 24 hour-a-day proposition; you can't go into it as a 9 to 5 opportunity. If you want to take the perspective on working and making a living then go to work for someone else, but if you want to be a business owner you have to be dedicated and you have to make sacrifices. For almost 15 years at one point, I worked every single day including all holidays to make sure we were successful." 

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Chris Dawson

About the Author: Chris Dawson

Chris Dawson has been with since 2004. He has provided up-to-the-minute sports coverage and has become a key member of the BayToday news team.
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