For over half a century, Blackwood Building Centre has stood proudly on South Fraser Way just east of Bourquin Crescent.
Blackwood’s 50-plus years have been highlighted by its success as a business, but also on the positive impact they have had on the community.
Local business legend Abe Konrad created Blackwood after spending a number of years working in farming and construction in and around the Fraser Valley. The now 86-year-old Konrad saw an opportunity to capitalize on what was a growing Abbotsford market.
Konrad said South Fraser Way looked a lot different in the early-1970s.
“I was the new guy in town back then and there was nothing here,” he recalled. “Between here and Gladwin Road there were chicken farms and mink farms, but I just opened up and some customers came and some didn’t come.”
The Home Hardware affiliation didn’t initially come early for Blackwood. Konrad said his company was independent to begin with, and then joined up with three different organizations before entering into a partnership with the iconic Canadian brand that has lasted for many years.
He said aligning with Home Hardware helped Blackwood.
“It’s a national image,” he said, of the partnership with Home Hardware. “People move here from different cities who had a good experience in their city and they come to Home. We don’t always treat everyone the way they like – you can never be 100 per cent but we try our best.”
Konrad also pointed out that working under the Home Hardware banner increases Blackwood’s supply opportunities and allows them to get better deals on products because Home Hardware has advantageous business dealings based on the scale of their company and the many years of strong sales nationwide.
Blackwood currently employs 69 and over the years has hired hundreds of locals. The company has also been involved, in some manner, in a staggering number of developments in and around Abbotsford. From housing to the Abbotsford Centre to the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre, Blackwood has had some sort of indirect impact on so many local projects.
But even more than that is the mentorship and support that Konrad has offered to other local businesspeople. Konrad has also devoted time to local and international charities, most notably with the Abbotsford-based Run for Water event.
“Blackwood was our very first sponsor for Run for Water 14 years ago when we first had this dream,” said Peg Peters, the executive director for Run for Water. “He [Konrad] was the first guy to say he believed in us. He’s a beautiful example of leadership in this community.”
Konrad supported Run for Water as a sponsor and has been at the finish line and volunteered by handling out medals to race finishers every year. Over the history of the event, Run for Water has raised over $4 million which means over 400,000 people now have clean water for life.
Blackwood’s importance in the community can understood by the reaction and support Konrad received during the fire that destroyed the centre back in 2011. Konrad said he was stunned when he arrived to see his building in dire shape from the blaze.
“There was quite a lot of damage,” he said. “It couldn’t be saved. I got a call at about 5 a.m. from one of the IHOP girls who just got in and I just couldn’t believe it.”
Peters said the reaction from the local business community and customers after the fire was resounding.
“What happened was all the farmers, all the contractors told him that if he rebuilt that they guarantee they will buy from him for the next few years,” he said. “They knew Abe was such a beautiful person in the community and they supported him.”
Blackwood rebuilt a few years later and that upgraded building is what still stands today on South Fraser Way.
Reflecting on over a half century in business, Konrad said he’s enjoyed the ride and wants it to continue.
“Thanks to all of our customers,” he said. “Without you there is no way we would have lasted over 50 years.”
For more on Blackwood, visit facebook.com/Blackwood-Building-Centre-188752041148986.