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Canmore Woodcrafters Ltd. celebrates 40 years as a family business

“Having a good culture and team is probably my favourite part [of working at Canmore Woodcrafters]."

CANMORE – Taking root in the forests of the Bow Valley, Canmore Woodcrafters Ltd. has grown tall and strong and recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Second-generation owner Brian Salzgeber grew up watching his dad Ernst Salzgeber plant the seeds of success and nurture them to fruition.

Brian’s father was originally a mountain guide and would be gone for long periods of time when his son was a newborn baby. The idea to launch Canmore Woodcrafters was born out of  Ernst’s desire to spend more time with his family.

When the business first opened, it was in a 55.74 square-metre garage in the back of the Salzgeber house and it has grown significantly since the early days.

Canmore Woodcrafter's current site, located at 102 Boulder Crescent, is its third location and was expanded in 2005.

“It worked out because the Bow Valley grew as well,” Brian said.

Brian grew up in the shop “playing in the sawdust” and helping out in the summer.

“I’ve learned tons,” Brian said. “There’s lots of challenges obviously.”

In 2005, he did an apprenticeship and worked his way up in the business eventually transitioning to working on the front lines of Canmore Woodcrafters.

It is surreal celebrating 40 years of operation, he said.

“It’s awesome we’re still here,” Salzgeber said. “That’s the goal to keep it going. We haven’t laid anyone off and we’re still keeping busy.”

The focus, for now, is on maintaining the company's hard-won reputation and seeing where the future takes them.

“It’s awesome,” Brian said. “I’m grateful I can work in a second-generation business as a second-generation cabinet maker.”

The foreseeable years will be dedicated to transitioning systems and utilizing the amazing machinery and technology that can now be accessed.

“[We're] changing the internal working is kind of the goal for the next few years."

There have been many developments over 40 years, Brian said, adding that one of the biggest challenges the business faced was the downturn that rippled across Canada in 2008-9.

“We’re quite lucky in the Bow Valley,” Brian said. “When the dollar changed and we dropped from par with the U.S. dollar, tourism blew up in the Bow Valley and I would say for that reason alone we’ve been able to keep busy.”

Woodworking is always an interesting pursuit, he said, and one of the more exciting aspects of the profession is the amount of saw and woodwork they still use to create amazing structures out of “raw pieces of wood.”

“I don’t know if there’s a ton of shops doing that still,” Brian said. “It’s kind of unique and interesting.”

Speaking personally, Brian said, one his favourite aspect of the business is the direction millwork has taken over the years.

“A carpenter used to crib the foundation, frame it, insulate it, side it – do all the processes of the house,” Brian said. “Now, in carpentry, it’s split up. Millwork is now that way as well.”

These changes in the industry help make Canmore Woodcrafters unique, Brian added, because around 95 per cent of everything created by the business continues to be made in-house.

It is a challenging profession because every day serves as an opportunity to learn something new.

He added that he is grateful the business continues to generate jobs for the community and be able to offer pay that supports workers lifestyle and families.

"We have a great team,” he said. “Having a good culture and team is probably my favourite part [of working at Canmore Woodcrafters]."

Chelsea Kemp

About the Author: Chelsea Kemp

Chelsea Kemp joined the Cochrane Eagle in 2020 as editor, bringing with her experience as a reporter and photojournalist. She writes about politics, health care, arts and entertainment and Indigenous stories.
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