Sarissa Melissa Photography

John Durand owns and operates his business Wellesley Island Building Supply in the Thousand Islands region. His delivery guys spend plenty of time on the water to serve the many island communities along the St. Lawrence River.

Liquor to Lumber
Dave Barup and I started Wellesley Island Building Supply in 1985. I had done some business with him when I still had the bar I opened at 21, just out of college. When we first opened, it was just me. I opened up, did deliveries, came back, and handled business until close. Both [the bar and lumber] business have challenges, but you really have to like people. When customers come here, I want them to be happy and leave smiling.

Ups and Downs
Sales were up every year until 2008-2009. Then we had customers canceling jobs. We had to lower our margins, but we kept everybody on. This is going to be our best year yet, and we are sensing a lot of optimism in our customers.

A Place Apart
Wellesley Island is about 10 miles long. Interstate 81 connects us to the New York mainland and Ontario. This is where all the big industrialists came in the last century and built huge houses. Many of the islands have summer homes and cottages.

Unusual Transportation
We started with smaller barges. This one is pretty big and pretty fast. It’s about 30 feet. We usually pull the barge in early November. When the ice is right, we can actually drive on it.

A Popular Service
I got a call from Kinek [an alternate delivery network] and they wanted to set up places where Canadian customers can come and pick up their packages. The first month, we did four packages; now we get 2,500 a month. In add-on sales from those customers over the past four years, we’ve pulled in about half a million dollars.