- Suzen Fromstein
OLEG CHEKHTER; Founder: IMPROVE CANADA ; Canada's Largest Home Improvement Centre
Oleg Chekhter understands how to create something from nothing. A former mechanical engineer, Oleg emigrated from Latvia to Canada in 1992. To gain Canadian work experience he pumped gas and delivered pizza. Eventually, his hard work and perseverance paid off and Oleg landed more challenging and lucrative positions trading construction
and petroleum products.
The idea for developing a one-stop, design and construction centre grew
out of the many frustrations Oleg experienced when building, and
renovating his own properties. “Researching what was new, and then
sourcing and purchasing the different products I needed for my own
projects, required countless hours of online research and travel to
numerous locations. Instead of enjoying the process, I found everything
except the construction itself, to be tedious, frustrating and time
consuming,” says the serial entrepreneur.
Oleg’s experience is not unique. With no apparent end in sight to the
rising cost of homes in the GTA, many people have started renovating
and improving their existing living quarters, rather than buying new.
“Today, everybody renovates,” Oleg says. “Almost $23 billion/year isspent on renovation projects in the GTA alone.
”The first design centre – the $147 Million, 320,000 square foot Improve Canada mega mall in Vaughan, is the only permanent home improvement mall, home show, and home improvement destination point in the whole country. In addition to the commercial units and common areas, the heated and air-conditioned facility includes meeting rooms, cafés, restaurants, and a 240-seat auditorium for product launches and educational seminars. There is also free parking for 1,500 cars.
Until the Improve Canada opened its doors in the summer of 2016, if GTA consumers and vendors wanted to buy, sell or learn from each other, there was no central location in which to do so. Like Oleg, they were forced to go online to research products and ideas, get referrals from friends or the local handyman, visit numerous showrooms that were often located miles away from each other, wait for the bi-annual Home Show to come around, or to shop at a big box store.
According to Oleg, Improve’s home improvement mall, permanent home show and home improvement destination point business model makes shopping easy and less stressful for everyone.
By putting over 400 design-related businesses under one roof, consumers only have to go to one central location to get expert advice, to comparison shop and to purchase products and services.
As of writing, there are 37 different design and construction categories represented at Improve, including:
• Appliances • Bathrooms
• Blinds/Curtains • Brick/Stone/Marble
• Cabinets/Shelving • Countertops
• Custom Builders • Decks/Fencing
• Décor/Accessories • Design/Designers
• Doors • Eaves trough
• Energy Savings • Faucets
• Financing • Fine Art/Framing
• Fireplaces • Flooring
• Furnishings • Gazebos
• Glass/Mirror • Grills/BBQ
• Hardwood • Home Entertainment
• Hot Tubs/Pools • HVAC Services
• Kitchens • Landscaping
• Lighting • Paints/Stucco
• Plumbing • Railing/Stairs
• Renovators • Roofing
• Security/Smart Home • Storage/Closets
• Tiles • Wall Coverings
• Window Treatments • Windows
Moreover, since most of the Improve vendors own their own
commercial condominium units (stores) in the mega mall, they and their
staff are interested in building long-term relationships and talking
about their products and services. Oleg asks, “Why would a consumer go
anywhere else or wait for the Home Show that only comes to Toronto
twice a year, when he or she can see the latest products, learn about the
available services and get advice from representatives of some of the
best and most creative brands in the design and construction industry?”
Since everything is located under one roof, it is possible to research,
select and purchase everything you need for your construction project
in just one day. “I have heard of many instances where clients and their
designers and builders walk around the mall, pick up samples from the
different vendors, make their selections in the privacy of one of the on-
site meeting rooms, and then return to the mall to purchase the
products. How wonderful is that? With such quality and convenience,
renovating and building is fun again,” Oleg adds.
Some of the best Canadian and international brands and companies,
including Best Brand Appliances, Canaroma Bath and Tile, BauFormat,
Leicht, Lussora Kitchens, Unilock, Jura, Artemano, Calligaris, Art Boulle,
The Georgian Group, Design to Fit Interiors, North York Tiles, Italian Art
Interior, Casa Di Luce, Alair Homes, and Pedini (as well as many others),
own stores at Improve.
”As a shareholder, each vendor is personally invested in the success of the Improve business model. In fact, our vendors are so committed, that many of them, including myself, Mary Amini (M Squared Flooring & Design Centre), Frank Piacentini (Canaroma Bath and Tile), Mario Ribeiro (Triumph Inc.) and Michael Soeizi (Arso Automations), also serve as volunteer board members.
By having a permanent storefront at Improve, vendors do not have to build a trade show booth or to travel to a different Home Show location on a weekly or monthly basis. Nor are they required to fund expensive advertising programs to access motivated buyers - Improve vendors share the cost of advertising, PR and marketing programs.
In his opening day remarks, Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua described the magic that happened when Oleg had the guts and the vision to create the one-stop, Vaughan centre. The Mayor said, “…It’s about providing an experience for people. It’s about providing access to people. It’s about generating ideas. It’s about feeding the innovative spirit…”
In just six months time, Oleg’s home improvement mall, permanent home show and home improvement destination point business model has become so successful that there are already plans in the works to expand to other major city centres in Canada and the United States. In fact, Oleg and his team are currently in the process of finalizing details for another “Improve” mall in Atlanta, Georgia.
Whether you are building a new home or renovating an existing one, and if you want to research, source, and purchase the latest design and construction products and services or want to learn about your options,
visit Improve Canada.
The Mega Mall is conveniently located on the West Side of Keele Street, North of Steeles and South of Highway 407, just minutes from Hwy. 400 and Hwy. 7, (Steeles/ Keele), in Vaughan.
Suzen Fromstein is the author of Suits and Ladders, Ten Proven Ways to Keep Your Job Safe - with a few jokes thrown in. Suits and Ladders was an Amazon Best Selling Book in the Career Guides Category
To learn more about Improve Canada Mall