Skip to content

Gold standard

The Dodd family forges ahead into the future of furniture

To say furniture is in Parm Dodd’s blood would be a big understatement. As a member of Victoria’s well-known Dodd family, Parm started working in the family business when he was a teenager.

“We’ve been in furniture our whole life, so I started selling furniture when I was 14 years old on the weekend, and I figured I knew everything by the time I was 18 years old,” says Parm, the creative director and co-owner of Standard Furniture and Ashley Home Victoria. “We probably have 100 relatives in the furniture business in Western Canada.”

Parm’s dad, Iqbal, the younger brother of Gordy Dodd of Dodd’s Furniture, started Six Mile Furniture in View Royal in 1985 with his wife, Harjeet. After a long and successful run, they closed it in 2015 to open the Ashley store.

“Ashley product significantly increased our business—just putting the name on the door enhanced our business profile, as it’s the largest furniture brand in North America. So it really helped our company,” explains the 42-year-old Parm. “Six Mile was only going to go so far, but it was hard to close it because that’s how we made our success because everything came from there.”

That success includes reviving Standard Furniture, which had been a Victoria institution since 1912, after acquiring it two decades ago.

“They were liquidating the store and my dad actually went in every morning with a coffee for Derek Denny for 30 days, because there were about 35 companies across Canada trying to buy Standard Furniture,” Parm says. “But they wanted to keep it local, so we took over the company and we reopened Standard in January of 2003. My dad still had Six Mile to run so he ran that store and I ran this store.”

Parm was just 21 at the time, and that definitely presented some challenges.

“A lot of staff had worked there for a long time and didn’t want to take direction from a 21-year-old,” Parm says. “But I found that as staff kept coming to me for information, it became a respect factor for our customer base because I was knowledgeable in furniture.”

Parm’s younger brother and co-owner, Kelly, now runs the Ashley store, and has also worked hard to position them for another big expansion. After years of trying to buy the building Standard Furniture occupies on Cloverdale Avenue, they purchased the former Ricky’s All Day Grill property on Douglas at Burnside that was destroyed by fire last June, for $2.5 million in January. They plan to build a high-end showroom on the high-profile triangle-shaped lot.

“We tell ourselves every time we’re not going to do anything else, we don’t need more pressure, but we seem to love the pressure, I guess!” Parm jokes before detailing their plans. “We’re going to build a brand-new, three-storey, 21,000-square-foot modern glass building on the Ricky’s site. It’s way more visible and we should see five to six times more traffic there.”

The flagship showroom will also include an area for designers to use on the top level. Parm says one of the biggest mistakes he made when he was younger was failing to cultivate better relationships with local designers and builders.   

“I was very ‘in the moment’ and focused on the sale and the margin, and I didn’t see the value in those relationships,” Parm says. “But the residual value of having those relationships will help you tenfold down the line. Even if a specific sale isn’t that fruitful, it could help us later, so I’ve spent the last year and a half building relationships with designers and builders—and we can see our business thriving.”

With the economy slowing, growing the customer base is more important than ever, so they’re going after different categories of business. Parm’s wife, Tasman, has created a new division called LIV16 Staging, working with developers and realtors to stage properties and help diversify the company.

“The lessons you learn in a recession—a real recession, not like right now—are really important,” says Parm. “Before the 2008 recession, we spent money freely on things. But as things slow down you realize that those few dollars here and there really add up, so the lessons we learned then, we’ve put into action going into this period of slowdown.”

After being in charge of Standard Furniture for 21 years—half his life—Parm says the biggest lesson he’s learned is to look at the big picture.

“In the old days, I used to always worry about day-to-day stuff and I think the lesson for me is that there’s always another day so look at the bigger picture,” he says.

The most important business lesson Parm and Kelly learned from their dad, who worked seven days a week for many years, was to have a strong work ethic and to be willing to do any job in the store.

“Even today, my brother and my dad will still take the truck to pick up the stuff from our Vancouver suppliers,” he says. “I had one customer who was negotiating with me for weeks and came back one day and saw me outside in a toque and parka washing the windows. And he said to me, ‘I was going to grind you again but I’m just going to buy it because I appreciate that you guys do everything.’ I think people respect that, and especially today, it’s important to have that connection with customers.”

Running their business is a definitely a family affair, and the Dodds wouldn’t have it any other way.

“As a family, we all have different skill sets, so I sell the sizzle and my brother makes sure the ship doesn’t sink,” Parm says. “We’re excited about the future. Most businesses are backtracking but we’re forging forward and betting on ourselves.”