Kal Tire president Robert Foord shows off the company’s new headquarters on Kalamalka Lake Road.

Kal Tire president Robert Foord shows off the company’s new headquarters on Kalamalka Lake Road.

Kal Tire rolls into new era

Company moves international and national operations to office on Kal Lake Road

The late Tom Foord never got to see the finished product, but his son, Robert, says he would have been extremely proud of the new Kal Tire building.

And perhaps even a little awestruck.

“He was always amazed, quite frankly, at our success and what the company had become,” said Robert, Kal Tire president.

“For him to look back 60 years ago… he started in a gas station downtown and this is what became of it. He’d still shake his head and smile and be happy, but very amazed.”

Tom, who died of complications stemming from heart failure in April, won’t be alone in marveling at the 85,000-square-foot structure, nestled in the back of Kalamalka Lake Road. Standing three stories and featuring a sleek, glass exterior, the office wouldn’t look out of place in a larger city centre.

The building’s interior incorporates a modern blend of glass, pine beetle wood, brick and exposed concrete, offset by plenty of open space and the occasional splash of Kal Tire orange.

There is a 150-seat cafeteria on the ground level, with coffee stations on each end of the upper levels, as well as two classrooms dedicated to training.

The building’s centrepiece is a skylight over an atrium that allows for an abundance of natural light to permeate the office space.

David Penner, Kal Tire’s building project manager, said the building’s design transformed as the process went along, adding it nearly ended up looking like something entirely different.

“There was an initial design that was almost through the conceptual stage when a number of people looked at it and said, ‘No, that just doesn’t fit Kal Tire and it doesn’t fit the area,’” said Penner. “We went back and evolved to it what we see today.”

Foord said it was important to seek input from the Vernon office team during the design process to see what they wanted in a new building. Natural light and quality ventilation were big priorities.

Kal Tire started moving in about 275 staff members last week. It has a capacity for 370, which represents a huge upgrade – more than double the office space – over the company’s old headquarters on 48th Avenue.

And Foord might actually get his own parking spot on the new site.

“When I was just leaving, there was a car waiting for me to leave so he could get my parking spot,” chuckled Foord of conditions at the old headquarters.

Parking issues aside, Foord said the main purpose of the new building is to consolidate the staff. Limited office space forced Kal Tire to operate a number of smaller offices off-site, which sometimes led to gaps in communication.

“Getting all of the team under one roof, not only from a team standpoint but also getting some better efficiencies in the business was important,” said Foord, noting there is potential for further expansion on adjacent properties.

“It’s a building we built out of necessity. We needed to get a space that could accommodate what we needed to do, not only from the day-to-day business, but also have some room for future growth.”

The Vernon office is headquarters for 240 retail stores in Canada, along with a dozen retread plants and four warehouses. Kal Tire is also a player on the global mining scene, with clients at 150 sites in 20 countries.

At MINExpo last month in Las Vegas, the company was awarded Supplier of the Year for Africa for its work with Newmont Gold in Ghana.

Yet, despite steady corporate expansion, and the accompanying temptation to operate in a larger city, Foord says Kal Tire is staying put in the North Okanagan.

“Vernon is our home; always has been,” said Foord, adding advances in communications technology make a company’s physical location less and less important.

“We’ve got our business roots here, but we also have families and that’s a connection we want to maintain and grow.

“We consider ourselves to have a small-town culture to our business and small-town values. From a quality of life standpoint, it’s pretty tough to find a better place to live than Vernon.”