GRK Fasteners Ltd. is a Thunder Bay family business success story.
In business for over 20 years, GRK makes and sells multipurpose screws and fasteners to carpenters, general contractors and deck builders around the globe. The company continues to grow and now has 35 full-time employees.
Most of GRK's customers are in the U.S., with about 93 per cent of its sales taking place south of the border. Other customers are mainly located in Canada, Europe and Japan.
Locally, GRK supplies Wanson Lumber with fasteners and has products shipped by Manitoulin Transport.
Mirco Walther, Co-owner and President, said the company always tries to be on the cutting edge when it comes to developing innovative fasteners.
“We do not come out with a product that we cannot patent,” said Mirco. “It has to be unique. We listen to the customers. If a fastener is not working well, that’s an indication there is a market niche.”
Uli Walther, Co-owner and Executive Chairman, said the company has about 25 sales representatives who attend over 500 industry events around the world – from trade shows to contractor barbecues – to showcase their products.
A delegation of citizens from Thunder Bay’s Japanese sister city, Gifu City, visited GRK’s headquarters last year while on a tour of the Lakehead. As a result of this visit, GRK is currently developing a catalogue in Japanese to help expand its sales in Japan and is also updating its website to include information in Japanese.
“Of course, we are looking forward to expanding our presence in Japan,” said Uli. “A good wholesaler with drive is always welcome.”
The Walther family, consisting of Uli, his wife Gerda and sons Thorsten and Mirco, founded GRK in 1990 after relocating from Binzen, Germany to Thunder Bay.
Gerda, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Secretary, has been actively involved in developing GRK’s operations over the years.
Thorsten, who had been instrumental in building the company, was tragically killed in a traffic accident near Edmonton in 2003.
“Without Mirco and Thorsten with us, Gerda and I would not have been able to do it,” said Uli. Hermann Hoerz was a shareholder of the business between 1993 and 2007, but the Walther family currently owns 100 per cent of GRK.
Number of employees: 35 full-time staff
Municipal taxes paid in 2007: $117,000
Local annual spending: About $2.5 million
Total sales in 2007: Nearly $19 million
Other contributions: About $10,000 in products and financial donations are made annually to organizations including Habitat for Humanity, the Humane Society and the Alzheimer’s Society. www.grkfasteners.com.