Skip to content

Meet the father/daughter team that wants to make you comfy at work (7 photos)

Dumanski Office Interiors/Compass Imaging Group and Sign Systems, a longtime Sault family business, is the subject of this week’s SooToday What’s Up Wednesday

If you’re sitting in a comfortable office chair reading this, chances are good you or your employer will have purchased that chair, your desk and other office equipment from Gary Dumanksi and daughter Lisa Brechin at Dumanski Office Interiors.

At one time, an employer would have told you ‘there’s your desk, there’s your chair, be happy with it,’ but today’s employers know there’s a need for comfortable chairs and more cheerful, sociable work spaces, and businesses like Gary and Lisa’s have helped fill that need.

“Ergonomically, yes, there is so much more science to it, how people work in a day...a lot of companies are going to the sit-stand desk, or you work in a collaborative group setting with your staff and co-workers,” Lisa told SooToday.

“It’s our goal, to make people happy and more comfortable, like people with back problems.”  

Gary, born and raised in the Sault, started out in the office equipment business selling Olivetti typewriters (in the days before offices had computers, and when ‘administrative assistants’ or ‘executive assistants’ were called ‘secretaries’).

Then, with business partner Bob McClelland, Gary launched McClelland and Dumanski Business Systems in 1969 on Queen Street, that company eventually employing over 60 people by the mid 1980s.

After a market downturn, McClelland and Dumanski Business Systems split into five different entities, including Algoma Office Equipment and MicroAge, Gary regrouping in the 1990s to establish Dumanski Office Interiors.

Eventually Lisa came on board to follow in her father’s footsteps.

“From there we needed to grow and expand, so Gary found a blueprint and drafting centre on Black Road, which was our previous location, and we bought the business and kept all the employees. It was a compatible thing for us to do,” Lisa said.

From there, there was steady growth, more and more customers wanting plotting, scanning and printing, Gary and Lisa also getting into signs and digital printing.

“At that point we realized that part of the business needed its own branding, so that’s where Compass Imaging Group and Sign Systems came along in the late 1990s,” Lisa said, the two Dumanski-owned businesses now located under one roof at 500 Industrial Park Cres., having moved into that location last year.

“Our employees cross over even though we have two different company names, just to identify the markets we’re serving.”

“We’re very proud of our staff,” Gary said, many of them having worked for the company for 20 years.

It was Gary who thought up ‘Positive Attitudes Change Everything,’ or PACE, which was adopted by the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce as an optimistic battle cry during tough times for Algoma Steel and the tube mill (in the pre-Tenaris days) around the year 2000.

“Everybody was talking negative, negative, negative, so I coined ‘be a PACE setter,’ we had buttons made up, and I brought it before council and the city adopted it too. It gave us something positive to talk about,” Gary said.

Gary and Lisa also serve as the Canadian manufacturers and distributors for Mirtec Canada, which specializes in small office signs for offices, schools, hospitals and a host of other businesses from coast to coast.

“This business is important to me because it offers employment for highly skilled people in an area that is necessary, offices and designing signs, offering solutions to our clients,” Gary said.

“Our employees are number one, top notch, and we enjoy giving back to the community as a business with the type of goods and services we offer, and I want to carry on what my dad started,” Lisa said.

“I’m very proud of my dad. I try to follow in his footsteps. We’re a little different but we work together,” Lisa smiled.