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'Just go do it'

by Brock Huffstutler

Its insiders might think of their name as a “joke,” but you cannot laugh at the success of a company that is about to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary and has customers across the globe.

Castle Rentals & Welding Supplies, Edson, Alberta, was established in 1992 by Rick Collin. As Collin’s daughter, Erin Brochu, who co-owns the business today along with her brother, Brad Collin, explains, the name of the business endures as a good-natured take on the industriousness of a local entrepreneur who once owned many properties in the community.

L-R: Beau, Waylon and Erin Brochu

“My dad bought the business off of a friend whose last name was Castle,” Brochu says. “The ‘Castle’ part of our name is part of a running joke because everything on the block was once owned by [Mr. Castle]. So, we have kept the Castle name to keep with the joke. There are still a few businesses in town today that have ‘Castle’ in their name, although none of them are owned by the Castle family anymore.”

When the Collin family purchased the business, it existed primarily as a welding operation. The introduction of equipment rentals as a major plank of the business grew later in response to specific customer needs.

“When my dad bought the business, it was just a branch of Castle’s company — he was a welder, so there wasn’t much of a store,” Brochu says. “The real growth of the rental side came after we took over. We continued the welding services, but recognized that rental was a growing need among our customer base. My dad is a real fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants type of guy. So, if somebody mentioned at a job that they needed a couple of light towers, he would just go and buy five, six or seven of them. It wasn’t an issue for him to act on that.”

Castle Rentals & Welding Supplies sits directly between Edmonton and Jasper, Alberta. The primary industries driving the region’s economy include oil, gas, forestry and mining, and it is from these industries that the business draws its customers, along with homeowners and landscapers. The business carries a mix of general tool, light construction and welding supplies in its inventory.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the business’s inventory concentration has been an asset both to commercial customers deemed “essential” and to residential customers with unexpected time on their hands.

“It hasn’t been too bad for us during this time,” Brochu says. “Of course, everything went down, but the pipelines are still deemed ‘essential,’ and we saw a lot of people’s ‘honey do’ lists getting done. They finally had time, for example, to rent a Bobcat to do their landscaping. We also sell welding supplies online and lately, especially with all the lockdowns in England, many people can’t go to their local store to buy welding supplies. But they can buy it off us. We’ve been online for probably four years on the welding side, and we’ve shipped all over the world.”

Boosting the business’s technology and online presence was a longtime mission for Brochu — one she has ran with since taking over ownership three years ago following her father’s retirement.

Brad Collin (left) and Tammie Simard, Castle’s social media expert

“I started working in the business when I was 16 — I got grounded once, so I had to go to work with my dad every day and I never left,” she says. “I fought with my dad for almost 25 years, trying to convince him to enhance our computer system and move online, but he never did. So, developing our technology has been a goal I have been working on. Today, I handle the management of the business and Brad takes care of a lot of the social media as well as the online welding supplies.”

Keeping the operation within the family has enabled Brochu, her brother, and even her father — who, while no longer the owner, is still around to lend a hand — to continue growing the business with the same unencumbered freedom they always have enjoyed.

“Over the years, we never had to go through eight different levels of management to make decisions on our growth like you would in a big company. And that’s the way we run things now, too. It’s so easy for us to just go do it,” Brochu says.