After 65 years in business, Monk Office has a lot of history on Vancouver Island, but CEO Mark Breslauer is even more excited about the future ahead for the Island’s largest office supply company.
When Charlie Monk started Monk Office Supply back in 1951 it was a single retail outlet in downtown Victoria. Monk built his business on the basis of great service and a personal touch. The company lived and breathed office supplies and they believed the foundation of a successful business depended on having the right tools for the job. And that’s what Monk gave his customers.
When he sold the business to Ron McKenzie in 1963, it wasn’t just the name that stayed with the business — it was the commitment to quality service. McKenzie believed part of that service lay in the commitment to stay abreast of the latest innovations and an assurance of the highest quality sales and service. By 1973 he opened Monk’s flagship store on Blanshard and Fort.
But things weren’t always easy. In the early 1980s the company had to weather a four-fold rise in interest rates and a faltering economy, conditions that resulted in the failure of scores of businesses.
But not Monk Office.
They survived, and by 1995, with Ron’s son James McKenzie at the helm, the company started the expansion within Victoria and up-island — a move that would contribute to making Monk Office the premier name in office supplies and lead to them being named Business of the Year by the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce in 2007.
In 2014 James stepped down as president and CEO, remaining majority owner and chair of the Monk Office Advisory Committee. He handed over the reins of the business operations to Mark Breslauer.
“Our strategy may be changing, the way we do business may be changing, but one thing that isn’t changing is our values and our commitment to each other and the community,” said McKenzie when he stepped down.
By the time Breslauer accepted the responsibility to move Monk Office into a new era, the company had already expanded a number of its locations to where today it proudly provides service at 11 outlets on Vancouver Island, making it the largest office product provider and the largest independent stationer in British Columbia. Monk Office can now be found across the Island, with outlets in Victoria, Duncan, Courtenay, Port Hardy, Sidney and Campbell River.
“We can access just about every part of the Island, and that local presence continues to be the foundation of our company,” said Breslauer. “We provide a personal touch combined with unsurpassed product knowledge. And our expanded infrastructure allows for a free, same-day delivery for commercial accounts.”
But Monk’s key values go beyond current product knowledge and service. They realize that the office environment is continually changing and they’ve taken it upon themselves to adopt a culture of learning. There’s a constant thirst for knowledge and the latest innovations to help customers add value to their business.
“Who knows what the office of tomorrow will look like,” said Breslauer.
Monk Office has also acknowledged its responsibility for a sustainable planet, working closely with Synergy Enterprises to develop a biannual report of sustainable initiatives. Monk Office has supported the local community as well. Monthly, it participates in community events such as silent auctions and donations. For the past few years, Monk Office has also worked with the Mustard Seed, donating thousands of school supplies to low-income children as part of the FairStart program during the back-to-school season. It also participates in a similar program with the Surrounded by Cedar Child and Family Services program, where they help provide school supplies to First Nations kids in the Victoria area.
Heading into the winter, Monk Office also holds a donation drive in which commercial drivers pick up and deliver canned goods from customers and donate them on behalf of the customers to the Mustard Seed.