By Peter Saunders
Established in 1985 in Mississauga, Ont., Metal Supermarkets has grown to become the world’s largest supplier of small quantities of metal, serving everyone from engineers to hobbyists. By filling a niche in the metal industry’s distribution chain, the franchise system has established its brand and continues to grow in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.
“The company was founded by Bill Mair, who’d had a long career in aluminum manufacturing,” says current president and CEO Stephen Schober. “He saw there was a void in the industry. Larger warehouses might have millions of dollars’ worth in high-volume metals, but Bill recognized the demand for small quantities of a broad range of metals, cut-to-size for fast pickup or delivery. It was a really good idea and no one else was doing it.”
Mair soon had not only customers at his door, but also businesspeople interested in opening more locations elsewhere. As he had little capital available to fund such expansion, he began franchising in 1989. The initial system growth in Canada was followed by franchising in the U.K. starting in 1994 and the U.S. in 1995.