Gordy Dodd’s 42-year career started with 16-hour days in the original Dodd’s Furniture showroom at Kings and Quadra.
It was 1977, 10 years after he arrived in Canada from India. As an independent furniture retailer Dodd had to travel to the mainland to pick up furniture. He couldn’t afford the benefit of shipping trucks dropping off bulk orders, nor did he and his wife Ravinder have anywhere to store the furniture.
There was no room for an office and they turned what would have been a janitor closet into a makeshift nursery with a crib so the kids, their son Love and their daughter Aman, could nap.
“I’d be on the morning ferry to the mainland to pick up furniture,” Dodd said. “My wife was looking after customers. I’d come back and if she had sold anything, I had to deliver it myself. That’s the type of life I had, 14 to 16 hours a day.”
This January, Dodd was notified that the Chamber of Commerce would be honouring him with the Governors’ Lifetime Achievement Award at the May 16 Business Awards Gala held at the Fairmont Empress.
“I didn’t know I had been nominated, it came as a surprise,” Dodd said.
Past chair Al Haslam of the Chamber of Commerce phoned Dodd to tell him the news.
“He said, someone nominated you, we had a meeting and everyone decided I would get it,” smiled Dodd.
Dodd was recognized in particular for his philanthropist and community efforts in addition to his dedication as a business owner that now employs 70 people at three stores, Campbell River, Nanaimo and Victoria.
Dodd is well known province-wide for his comical television commercials, often portraying a super hero or other famous character, but also known locally. He’s done Peace Walks to raise money for Victoria Hospice, and has an annual presence at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for people in need, having also benefited The Victoria Cool Aid Society and Our Place.
“I’ve had other awards, and this one is even more special,” Dodd said. “They told me they appreciate the community work I do, and I appreciate that. They also told me they liked that I was entertaining and that was a different way to sell.”
From the beginning Dodd was driven to be successful as a new Canadian.
“Because I’m an immigrant from India, we want to be successful in whatever we’re doing, same as anyone coming here,” he said.
In 1982, the Vic Trader store on Finlayson went under and Dodd took the opportunity to leave Quadra Village and move into the space.
It was a 12,000 square-foot, single-storey building and it was too big for Dodd’s business. He asked the landlord for half the store space and the landlord told Dodd to find a subtenant. So Dodd began lobbying other businesses to move in. His search gained momentum when he started calling around to mainland businesses that had considered expanding to Greater Victoria.
“I found a carpet [retailer] from Richmond. They took half of it but after three years they went bankrupt,” Dodd said.
By then it was 1985 and Dodd was able to take over all 12,000 sq. ft. Then in 1990 the landlord offered Dodd the chance to buy the building. By 1997, however, the building was in bad shape.
“It was actually an old bowling alley, I’m sure there are still a few people around who will remember that,” Dodd said. “It was leaking, and we needed repairs. We decided to demolish the building.”
While the current two-storey building on Finlayson was being built Dodd moved into an interim location on Douglas a block south of Finlayson by Spruce Avenue. The current Finlayson building was finished in 2000.
Dodd’s has become a family business with Love and Aman running the operations.
Dodd opened a Nanaimo store in 2015 and a new 35,000 sq. ft. Nanaimo location is currently under construction. They opened Campbell River in 2017.
“We wanted to make something that our children will remember, so they would know that I had done something,” Dodd said. “These are the kinds of things we learned from the old country culture.”