Over 50 Years of Service
When he started his modest business in 1984, Leo Talbot could not have imagined the magnitude and influence that Rockland Marine & Equipment would have 50 years later. An authorized agent and dealer
of recreational all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and watercrafts has written several chapters of his half century of commercial activities which has been marked by loyal services to his customers and a strong rooting in the community, but it’s above all on the family that has woven this historical institution which has always operated on Saint-Jean Street. Nothing remains today of the original purpose of this business which was named “Rockland Farm”. Indeed, the founder Leo Talbot was a farmer, born on a small farm and he had advanced welding knowledge. “Leo has always done manual work. At home, he would repair washing machines for the neighbours. He always had an interest in mechanics. Thus, why he launched his own business” says his granddaughter Suzanne Talbot, now the company’s co-owner. In the early 60’s, farms and especially dairy farms were abundant In the Rockland region.
The Rockland economy rested almost entirely on agriculture. Sensing a good thing and taking into account his skills with a torch and a wrench, Leo Talbot decided to start a farm equipment repair shop and began selling Ford tractors. Rockland Farm quickly built a reputation with the farmers by providing efficient services which was greatly needed because the farmers required their machinery to always be in good working order to perform the multiple tasks required by their profession. Leo Talbot was also known as good natured guy who enjoyed life. “Leo loved to make his customers happy. He wanted them to be happy coming in or leaving the shop.” Suzanne Talbot notes about her grandfather. “it’s one of the important values that he instilled in us. From generation to generation we were always concerned with making our customers happy. We want our clients to be satisfied when they leave the store.”, she says.
Rise from the Ashes
In 1968, in the agricultural machinery repair and welding neighbourhood shop was starting to run smoothly for Leo Talbot, who founded it by himself, tragedy struck. The young business was engulfed in
flames. Fire ravaged 75% of the building. All that remained were the foundations. Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident. The fire started during a welding repair on a car, “On a Chrysler Imperial” remembers Mario Meloche the co-owner or Rockland Marine and partner of Suzanne Talbot. Leo Talbot was forced l to start from scratch If he wanted to pursue his operations and to do this he had to undertake the reconstruction of the business and shop. He wasn’t by himself to rebuild. The community of Rockland decided to give back to the Talbot’s who were always socially active in the community. The community came together and helped with the rebuild of the business which was done in no time. “We had great support from the community. Everyone helped in the reconstruction.
Leo was Involved In the community and he was well appreciated. We are still very grateful today”, says Suzanne.
Following the fire, Leo Talbot called his son Marcel who was working In Ste-Therese, Quebec for Dion & Freres, the retailer of farm machinery. He asks him to return to Rockland to operate the business. Marcel then agreed to succeed his father at the helm of the small business which he will lead through many changes over forty years.
Adapting to Market Changes
It’s after the fire that completely destroyed the dealer “Rockland Farm” that Marcel Talbot, son of Leo, takes over from his father in the late 60’s. In addition to his father’s experience he can count on his wife Huguette Potvin to assume the administrative portion of the business. The company has become what it is today because of the decisions that Marcel has made over the years so that the business properly adapts to market changes. The first of these changes will come from the farming community itself which Is the origin of the business. The new law on milk quotas imposed on farmers radically transforms the agricultural industry in the region and its effects were not only beneficial quite the contrary. Many farmers throw in the towel because of these new dairy farming requirements and cease their operations, comments Mario Meloche co-owner of Rockland Marine. The Impact Is quickly felt by the family business that repairs farming machinery, they decide to diversify their activities. It’s at that time that Marcel starts the first shift towards recreational.
In 1969, the first snowmobiles appear in the store, the Boa Ski to be precise. However, in 1971, Marcel decides to go with Polaris manufacturer known for its’ high quality engines. Still today It’s the only brand sold by Rockland Marine, making It the oldest retailer In Ontario of this brand. “We had to be creative. It was a good decision. It was the year of the snowmobile boom” says Mario Meloche. Gradually sale and repair of agricultural equipment will be abandoned. Taking advantage of the Ottawa river nearby, the business will be renamed Rockland Marine in the early 80’s, and it makes its first foray into the nautical sports in the mid 70’s through the sale of Mercury outboard motors and Princecraft boats, these Items are still sold today at the store. Besides the sale and maintenance of boats and engines they also offer boat storage and winterizing services Rockland Marine can accommodate 40′ boats and impressive trailer to move the boats. In 2015, the marine division of the company represents 50% of its revenue said Mario Meloche. From 1979 to 1981 winters were milder than usual and this negatively impacted the revenues of the company.
Once again, the Talbot family adapted by diversifying and expanding their business. Starting In 1986, we included the sale of all-terrain vehicle (ATV), Polaris brand of course. Today the lion’s share of sales of ATV come from the commonly known side by side machines (2 or 4 seaters) that appeared on the market in the early 2000’s. In 2015, Polaris offers a wide range of products such as Ranger and RZR to better serve the client that wants a recreational or a utility vehicle and without forgetting the numerous snowmobile models which adorns our winter sports. The range of products offered will also include snow blowers, chain saws and horticultural equipment provided by well-known companies such as Sthil and Snapper.
From One Generation to the Next
We owe it all to Leo Talbot for launching in 1964 Rockland Farm, a small business of sales and repair of farm equipment which became later Rockland Marine and Equipment. However, it was Marcel Talbot, son of the founder, who ran the business for better part of the 50 years it has been opened
In 1998, he asks his son in law, Mario Meloche, who was working as a mechanic to join the Rockland Marine team and offers the administrative portion to Suzanne Talbot which insured succession of the company. With Suzanne’s management skills and the mechanical skills of her life partner Mario, Marcel knew It was a winning combination. “I did not answer right away I slept on It. It was an important decision which came with great responsibilities. I looked at my spouse and wondered if we could work together. Finally, we decided to embark together on this great adventure” said Suzanne. But It was not until 2004 that the couple became sole owner of the business. It has now been over 10 years that the couple co-manage the business and the succession could now be provided by their son Carle who is studying mechanics. “We would love it if he could ensure the succession of the business but we do not want to pressure him” remarked Mom.
From generation to generation the Talbot family’s mission has been a neighborhood business with friendly service this respects the approach of the founder, Leo, who wanted his clients to be “happy coming and emerging from the business.” Today, the client base of Rockland Marine and Equipment extends to all corners of Prescott-Russell and now includes some from the Quebec side of the Ottawa river. “We keep the spirit of a small business. Our strength Is customer proximity. By remaining a SME, out employees and ourselves can take the time to properly advise our clients.” Says Suzanne Talbot. “We want to thank all our clients that have always supported us since the very beginning” say simultaneously Suzanne and Mario. They consider the team of eight employees as family, “It Is primarily thanks to them that Rockland Marine as continued to prosper.” Now the second half of the century is on course.