Canadian Rental Service

A place inside

By Martine Frigon   

Features Profiles

Nestled in the northeastern corner of New Brunswick, in a region referred to as the Acadian Peninsula, Caraquet is a small town where Bertin has operated his rental company, Location d’outils JED, for nearly 30 years.

Étienne Bertin is the owner and operator of Location d’outils JED in Caraquet, New Brunswick.  

Étienne Bertin lives and works in place he calls home.

Nestled in the northeastern corner of New Brunswick, in a region referred to as the Acadian Peninsula, Caraquet is a small town where Bertin has operated his rental company, Location d’outils JED, for nearly 30 years.

Recently he has opened a similar store in Shippagan, about 40 kilometres from Caraquet.  Both are small towns where everyone knows everyone, and there are few superstores or national chains established in this part of the province. Bertin operates the main store to serve the local area renting lawn mowers, snow-blowers, and tamper rollers.
A native of St-Léolin, a small village located nearby, Bertin comes from a family of eight children. Presently 50 years old, Bertin and his wife Huguette have two girls who are now young adults. Having always lived in this part of Canada, Étienne is proud of his region, and wishes to live there for the rest of his life.

Bertin started his rental business at Caraquet in 1981. At that time he opened the store with two other people. One of them was his boss, who worked in the construction business. The Location d’outils JED, gets its name from the first letter of the first name of each of the partners, Jean, Étienne and Donat.      

Location d’outils JED is a STIHL and Cub Cadet dealer offering maintenance and repair work for chainsaws, lawn mowers and snow-blowers.  

In 1985, Bertin bought out the shares of his two associates as they were anxious to be involved full time in the construction business. Ten years later he opened a branch in Shippagan, in a new building of 3,200 square feet. In all, five employees work for the business in the two locations.

Two members of his family have worked with him for a long time. His sister Édith works as bookkeeper and administrative assistant, and his brother Guy is a salesman. The company includes four other people, one more in Caraquet and three in the Shippagan’s location.           
Land of the Acadians
The Acadian Peninsula is made up of families who have been living in this region since the arrival of the French settlers in New France four centuries ago. These people are referred to as Acadians. The mother tongue and the current spoken language is French for more than 98 per cent of the inhabitants. Summer tourism and fishing are the dominant industries. The small communities that dot the countryside are economically driven by commercial fishing for cod, Atlantic halibut, herring and shellfish.

The town of Caraquet, called the Acadian capital, has a population of approximately 5,000 people, while Shippagan has a population of almost 3,000.

Bertin is a STIHL and Cub Cadet dealer. He ensures that customers are offered after-sales service and honours all manufacturer’s warranties.
The company also offers maintenance and repair work tools such as chainsaws, lawn mowers and snow-blowers. Both stores are open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The stores are closed on Sundays. The branch located in Caraquet, which has 4,000 square feet, was moved in 1996 a distance of three kilometres, in order to be located on Provincial Route 11, which has also become the main street of the municipality.

Bertin explains, “The building was originally located on a street which was too far from the flow of traffic and we wanted to take advantage of the main street. This was quite an event! The moving took a whole day. And this did not include the time taken to relocate the stock from one store to the other.”

The majority of his clients are homeowners who live in the surrounding areas. They buy snow-blowers, standard or riding lawn mowers, and clients who own wooded lots are able to purchase chainsaws. “Sales represents about 70 per cent of my annual turnover,” says Bertin. On the other hand, rental is more often requested by contractors, but some customers will rent seasonal equipment such as roller packers. The least expensive equipment available in the stores can be rented for $10 per day. Local contractors will rent machinery such as his two Bomag rollers. Because he owns all of the equipment that is in demand for his market area, Bertin does not need to be in a network of rental locations in order to exchange equipment. “I have never had a request for equipment other than what I have here,” explains Bertin.

These days, business is reasonably good. “Three senior citizens homes are actually under construction. I rent my machinery to the contractors who have successfully bid on the contract.”

Being the only store in the vicinity specializing in lawnmowers, snow-blowers, chainsaws and commercial industrial equipment, Bertin says he does not have competition. “I don’t have to worry about competition from others.” He has also never considered the possibility of affiliating his business with a national banner. “Perhaps the reason is because I don’t have competition located nearby,” he explains.

Despite lack of competition, Bertin tries to expand his business by placing ads on a regular basis. He mainly places spot ads on the regional television station, CHAU-TV, and also on the local radio station CKLE.

Over the years, Bertin says that his annual turnover has never gone down but has in fact either grown or remained stable. “However, this year the crab fishermen, who are the main economic force in the community, have had some problems. Prices have dropped and this has been a difficult time for them. Consequently they are spending less in construction and renovation of their homes and businesses.”

Bertin would like to retire in five years but he says no one in his family seems able to take over the business. His daughters, who are 23 and 21, both work in other professions. However, when he does eventually retire, Étienne and his wife do not want to move. “I want to continue to live in Caraquet. Here everyone knows everyone and it is the place I have always lived,” he says.  “It’s home!”

*Martine Frigon is a professional writer and photographer based in Charny, Que.

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