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A franchise or two

Photos by Sara Paley, courtesy Peter and Silvana Sidonio

By Peter and Silvana Sidonio
We’ve both dedicated our careers to the retail sector, which helped prepare us to become successful franchisees for Buck or Two Plus! here in Burnaby, B.C. That said, the dollar store business was a lot more challenging at first than we had ever suspected. We’ve learned a lot along the way and are now ready to go multi-unit.

I was born in Airdrie, Scotland, just east of Glasgow. My family had a variety of businesses, over the years, including a disco, a café and a wholesale business, mainly selling candy, ice cream, gelato and cigarettes. As a youngster, I was very much brought up in a retail environment.

At school, my favourite subjects were maths, physics and geography. Silvana and I met when she was 15 and I was 16. We’ve been together ever since.

At one point, I wanted to become a pilot. I took and passed my aptitude tests in Southern England to join the Royal Air Force when I was 17. I changed my mind, however, as my relationship with Silvana grew.

I ended up owning a movie rental store in Airdrie shortly after I turned 19 in 1981. I also furthered my education by going to college to study accounting, but decided I wanted to move forward in business as soon as possible. Within six months, I opened my second movie rental store in a neighbouring town, Wishaw, where Silvana and I lived after we got married.

Over the years, I built that business up to a chain of 13 stores with more than 80 employees. Many of my stores included gelato counters selling cones and tubs, along with Belgian chocolates. We also introduced sun-tanning cabins to a few of the stores in the late 1990s.

For this business to remain recession-proof, we have to keep aware of what products our customers want, whether they’re adults or children.

I’m from Glasgow. Peter and I were childhood sweethearts. When he got into the movie rental business, his store in Airdrie was only the second of its kind anywhere in central Scotland. Those stores became a great success for a long time.

I worked for a small financing company as a secretary, but as Peter’s business operations became bigger, I gave up my job to run one of his shops. Back in those days, I found it was relatively easy to run a successful movie rental store, so long as you had some business sense, good employees, dedication to customer service and, of course, a great selection of movies. The store I was running—Peter’s second, in Wishaw—was one of his busiest. He also had a small management team that travelled from store to store to train employees, pick up money for the bank, etc.

Silvana and I got married in 1984, when I was 23. Our daughter Annalisa was born in 1986, followed by our son Stefano in 1989.

In 1996, we decided to move to Vancouver for a better quality of life. I always loved skiing, golfing and fishing. The weather in Scotland isn’t reliable for many outdoor activities, even in the summer. It was still a difficult decision to make, however, especially in terms of taking our young children so far away from our relatives, especially their grandparents.

When we moved to Vancouver, I was 35 and still owned my chain of movie rental stores. It took about five more years to sell or close all of them. In the meantime, we knew we could move back there permanently if things didn’t work out in Canada.

I entered Canada on an entrepreneur’s visa. This meant I had to buy or open a local business. I started with a laser tag centre in North Vancouver called Laserdome, which I built up from two or three employees to 10. I ran that business for just over a year and then sold it.

Having found success with movie rental stores in the U.K., I went back to that business and bought one in the Caulfeild district of West Vancouver. Then I sold it and opened another at Westview Shopping Centre in North Vancouver, which was successful and I ran it for almost three years. I sold it while business was still strong. In fact, that particular is still open today, serving gelato.

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2 comments on “A franchise or two”

  1. It was lovely to see your story on the computer. (From your Aunt Ada.) I’m sure you both enjoyed Adriana & Ricardo’s wedding tremendously. I still think about Mia. She’s a very intelligent child, so I hope she gets a very good education.

    Give my love to everyone. My email is adapia1930@gmail.com.

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