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85 years of business in the West Kootenays and still going strong — Kalesnikoff mass timber products and lumber

Ari Lord
By Ari Lord
July 2nd, 2024

Kalesnikoff mass timber products and lumber recently celebrated 85 years of business in the West Kootenays.

The company, started in the 1930s by three immigrant Russian Doukhobor brothers, for years has tried its hand at many timber-related ventures and now does milling and mass timber construction.

Ken Kalesnikoff, President and CEO, says the company’s success is due to its stellar employees, constantly adapting, and getting into value-added wood products.

“One of the very unique things that we have going is the generations,” he said of the four-generation business.

“We’re very fortunate to have two children who are very engaged in business. We have five grandchildren and hopefully one or more will continue the legacy. I would love this company to go on for another 85 years.”

Kalesnikoff mass timber products and lumber celebrated its 85th anniversary by hosting a variety of celebratory functions for its employees, which is fitting because according to Ken Kalesnikoff, President and CEO, the employees are primarily to thank for the company’s success.

“We’ve been very fortunate to build a solid, hard-working team,” says Kalesnikoff.

Kalesnikoff says his father, Pete Jr., former President and CEO, continually emphasized the importance of treating the company’s employees well when he trained him for the role.

The company began when the Kalesnikoff’s, a Russian family, immigrated to the West Kootenays to join a communal Doukhobor settlement. One son in this family, Koozma, applied for timber rights 10 miles south of Castlegar in China Creek, eventually becoming Kalesnikoff Lumber Co. Ltd.

“The mill was started by my grandfather and two brothers back in 1939 in China Creek. They built roads and cut trees by hand and walked into the mill with horsemen,” explains Kalesnikoff.

By 1940, the three brothers had built a sawmill. After several relocations within the Castlegar area, the brothers established their operation in Thrums in 1972, where the sawmill stands today.

It has truly been a family business for all 85 years. Kalesnikoff’s father, Pete Jr., went to work in the mill at age 14, and was President and CEO of the company until 2005.

“Unfortunately, we lost my dad to cancer in 2006, and that’s when I took over as President and CEO,” says Kalesnikoff.

“My dad isn’t around, but if he was, I think he’d be really proud.”

Kalesnikoff also spent time at the mill when he was young.

“I started working when I was a little kid, too. I was intrigued with the sawmill, so I would come to work with him. Then I graduated high school and came and worked my way through the whole mill, learned all of the different jobs.”

Kalesnikoff recently celebrated its 85th birthday and President and CEO Ken Kalesnikoff credits the company’s success with its incredible, multi-generational team.

The company has branched into various value-added wood products such as siding, flooring and panelling, over the years. Several times the company has withdrawn from certain initiatives, finding themselves unable to compete with the Chinese market.

“In 2015 we started looking at mass timber. It was another stage of our evolution into value-added products. After we did research and visited a bunch of places in Europe, we decided to make the plunge into mass timber. In 2019, we ordered equipment that broke ground and started putting up a building,” says Kalesnikoff.

Mass timber is a construction technique that uses engineered wood rather than concrete or steel as the primary load-bearing building structure.

Today, the company sells most of its specialty products to Japan and Europe.

“On the mass timber side, the US market is pretty important. Like 50% of our products are being delivered to the US market. Whereas the other 40% is in BC and then another 10% other parts of Canada,” says Kalesnikoff.

Kalesnikoff thinks the company’s logging practices have contributed to its success.

“We try to work well. We have to work within the regulations that are out there. But then we also take the extra effort to try to consider people’s concerns.”

For Kalesnikoff, what makes the company stand apart is the generational quality.

His two children, Krystle Seed and Chris Kalesnikoff currently work at the company as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operations Officer respectively. Kalesnikoff says they have been instrumental to the company’s success and what makes the company stand apart is the generational quality.

Today the company has a sawmill in Thrums and a mass timber facility in South Slocan.

In March 2024, the company announced it was building its third $34 million mass timber facility near their existing facility in the Nelson-Castlegar corridor. This facility plans to employ 90 new people.

The province is supporting the development of this facility to the tune of 6.7 million dollars to help Kalesnikoff grow its operations by establishing a new prefabricated mass-timber and cross-laminated timber modularized building facility.

Kalesnikoff says the company currently employs 328 people.

“We’ve had a huge impact on the region,” he says.

Aimee Watson, Chair/Director of Area D of the Regional District of Central Kootenays agrees.

“It is remarkable to see how a family run business based here in the Kootenays, has established itself as a known entity across the world in its industry,” Watson said.

“Congratulations to Kalesnikoff Lumber on its 85th anniversary, an industry leader in its field, that continues to invest in the community and people of the Regional District of Central Kootenay.”

Kalesnikoff says the company prioritizes sourcing things locally as much as possible, like fuel, bearings, and electrical products. The company supports the community in other ways.

“We support the communities in a really big way. We’re constantly donating to different hockey teams, baseball teams, soccer teams, different functions. We just constantly are giving back to the community.”

The company has a program, Kalesnikoff Cares, wherein their team financially supports local causes, events and initiatives.

Kalesnikoff is a proud community supporter, donating to different hockey teams, baseball teams, soccer teams, different functions.

This post was syndicated from https://thenelsondaily.com
Categories: General

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