Has worked side by side with his wife in furniture business for 40 years
Gerrit de Boer walked into his Idomo showroom on the first day of his retirement sale to thunderous applause.
With 40 years in the furniture business under his belt, the man with the beard is bidding adieu to bedroom and dining room sets to focus on other passions, he said.
"When I was 14 years old I made three goals for my life," de Boer said inside his 60,000 square foot, flagship store at Sheppard Avenue and Allen Road, which opened in 1992. "One was to build my own home, which I have done. The second was to build a pipe organ. I need to build 400 to 500 pipes and I have 60 so far. It's a 10-year project. The first year I focused on the keyboard. So I have eight more years to finish it, learn how to play it and put on a concert. The third goal is going to the moon. I just hope the Canadian Space Agency doesn't discriminate because of my age."
The 64-year-old, who has worked side by side with wife Nancy for four decades, said he became emotional Saturday, Jan. 8, three days after announcing his retirement and the first day of his everything-must-go sale.
"It was shoulder to shoulder in here," de Boer said. "People waited two hours to process their orders. The loyalty of the customers made me emotional. I was totally amazed by the patience people had."
When asked when the store will shut its doors for the final time, de Boer pointed to posters advertising his retirement sale.
"When it's gone, it's gone," he said, repeating the poster's words. "We have $2 million of inventory to go through. I'd say six to eight weeks but I really don't know."
de Boer opened his first furniture store in February 1971 on Supertest Road to compete against teak stores, which were all the rage at the time.
Idomo stores then popped up in Mississauga, Hamilton and Montreal, but those have since closed, de Boer said.
"Our collections have always been unique," he said. "We would mix modern chairs with colonial heavy duty tables from India. We had a loyal clientele. No one said our prices were out of line and we didn't buy from middle people. I travelled to over 24 countries a year. What I will miss most is our customers. And the hardest part of closing down is letting go of our 35 employees."
Once closed, de Boer said the Idomo building will be turned into sustainable office space, complete with a green roof and garden.
Noting condominiums under construction right beside Idomo, not to mention plans to turn neighbour Downsview Park into a sprawling community space, de Boer said he's been heavily involved with change in the surrounding area.
"What is being built is a community," he said. "There are condos up and down Sheppard but this is a community around a public park. It's a live/work environment."
Downsview Park was also the site of a 2002 Papal Mass, when 32,000 litres of raw sewage from 7,000 portable toilets flooded Idomo.
"That was really hard on us," de Boer said. "We were closed for seven months and it took years for us to build up again."
de Boer, who studied architecture at the University of Manitoba, said once retired he plans to design and build metal sculptures and spend time in the garden.