‘Ottawa’ Ottawa’s OakWood Keeps it all in the Family
Yes, the woody exterior was designed by Ottawa architect Barry Hobin. Yes, there are 10,000 square feet of showroom space featuring 7,800 items, eight kitchen displays, and, soon, a hologram room where you can view your renovation project in startlingly lifelike form.
And yes, the place bristles with other cool stuff including a noise-system that ensures conversations inside the building remain private.
But there’s also an old-school bobble head doll of celebrity renovator Mike Holmes in the reception area of OakWood’s shiny new headquarters/showroom in Orléans. The doll is not only a clever reminder to visitors that OakWood is so far Ottawa’s only Holmes-approved renovator, it’s also a sign that the family-owned business retains a sense of humour and the common touch even as it spins off new services faster than you can say, well, “Mike.”
Led by ever-ambitious president John Liptak, the award-winning company has poured more than $10 million into its new, LEED-certified headquarters.
“The walls are R-57,” enthuses Liptak who sometimes seems like he’s part perpetual motion machine. “When we were planning it, we said, ‘We can show off a little bit with this.’ ”
When it opens to the public in late spring, the site will be ground zero for the company’s design-build renovation services, custom homes and other operations including HandyManPRO (for small, fix-it projects from electrical rewiring to fence repairs) and RenoTeam (à la carte reno services including cabinet installations and painting).
The latter services are recent additions but “already booming,” according to 58-year-old Liptak.
OakWood has also set up its own custom cabinetry line called Seriös, and, in 2012, launched renovation design centres in Randall’s paint stores across the city.
With more than 6,500 clients to date and a current staff of 61, OakWood expects to generate more than $22 million in revenue this year. Kitchens, bathrooms and additions account for its busiest reno services.
Building — and working hard — is encoded in the family DNA. Liptak’s grandfather was a woodworker in Germany. In the 1950s, his father, John Sr., launched a furniture and cabinetry operation in the Ottawa area that later expanded into home renovation and building businesses. This he did while running a dairy farm, says Liptak.
“He’d do construction all day and then come home and milk the cows.”
Liptak, who started working on his father’s job sites at 10 years old, took over one of the family businesses in the 1980s, eventually growing it into his present company.
Fascinated with computers, he also created a profitable software company on the side and has since steered OakWood into extensive use of computer-based systems.
Keeping it all in the family, his daughter Patricia Liptak-Satov is OakWood’s chief operating officer, and her husband also works for the firm. Liptak’s other daughter Angela Mallon serves as the company’s chief financial officer, and his wife, Debbie Liptak, is vice-president.
“Even in high school we’d go to management meetings,” says Liptak-Satov, 31. She was inspired to join the business by “seeing my dad’s passion for it. You take a space and you change (people’s) lives.”
Liptak’s passion remains unflagging and includes plans to expand into more home building.
“I’ve done well out of the business; I could retire,” says Liptak. So why doesn’t he? “I love it.”
What’s in a name? OakWood is named for a massive oak tree on the rural property east of Ottawa where Liptak grew up and still lives.
- 8. Number of toilets in the new Orléans headquarters using filtered rainwater from a rooftop collection system.
- $68,000. Cost of the La Cornue stove in one of the new kitchen displays.
- 45. Number of large LED screens OakWood uses to assist clients with product selection.
John Liptak on plans for this summer: “I’m taking my sisters to Europe for a big family reunion. There’s going to be more than 100 people. We’re renting the whole floor of a hotel.”