A Homegrown Success Story
“If you spend a dollar, you need to get a dollar twenty back,” is the rule founder and owner of Jay’s Moving & Storage Ltd., Dennis Doehl, learned as a young man. And it’s one that he applied to his business daily as Jay’s grew steadily from a 3-truck operation to what it is today; one of the largest multi-branch moving and freight companies operating in the prairie provinces, with 11 branches in Saskatchewan and Alberta, 450 employees, and over 600 pieces of equipment.
Dennis began to develop his entrepreneurial skills when he was still in grade school by splitting wood, trapping, raising chicken and cattle and later investing his hard-earned savings into the hotel business in partnership with his dad. Dennis, and his new wife Arlene, worked in the hotel long enough to know it wasn’t for them. With a loan from the local Credit Union, Dennis bought Jay’s, a small trucking firm. He and two employees began hauling freight between Regina and Watrous. Jay’s was officially launched.
During the 60's, Jay’s began doing household moves, first locally and then provincially, often with additional help from family members. In the early years, the office was the kitchen table – there were no calculators or photocopiers, and accounting was done on a one-write system. While Arlene handled the office work and took care of their young family, Dennis’ mother often travelled with him as a packer. Lunches were brown bag affairs–usually baloney sandwiches. Dennis and Arlene’s children helped out by doing odd jobs as soon as they were old enough to pick up a broom or cut down boxes – instilling in them a strong work ethic they bring to their positions at Jay’s to this day.
Over the past 50 years, there have been significant changes in technology and equipment. Dennis and Arlene reminisce over the old days, remembering when an old milk truck was used for a pack van. With only one seat for the driver, the packer (often Arlene or her mother-in-law) had to sit on a lawn chair. The heater couldn’t keep up on a cold winter day, so the moving team would often stop and scrape the windows with pieces torn off the boxes. The packers were more than happy to finally get to work packing or unpacking because it meant being inside where it was warm! Today’s trucks are a far cry from the trucks of yesterday.
In 1970, Jay’s leased a warehouse in Regina and became an agent for Atlas Van Lines Canada. During the course of doing business, Dennis quickly learned that profits meant being able to invest in opportunities that allowed further growth and diversification. In 1977, he purchased Guardian Moving & Storage in Moose Jaw, and expanded the service to include Regina and Saskatoon. A blueprint for future growth was born and used over and over again. Moving forward meant making bold decisions, often taking enormous risks. It wasn’t easy; there were times Arlene wondered how they would put food on the table - but they did, and the company never missed a payroll.
Jay’s first Christmas party was hosted around an upside down box at the first leased warehouse in Regina and was attended by four employees. Dennis admits with awe that when he first started the business, he really had no idea that it would eventually grow to become what it is today. Jay’s Christmas parties today are grand affairs, attended by around 400 people. With branches scattered across two provinces, the Christmas party brings everyone together to celebrate the company’s successes and to thank the employees for their loyalty, hard work, and their commitment to excellence.
Dennis has dedicated his career to making the transportation industry more professional and accountable, serving on numerous boards such as the Canadian Tariff Bureau, Saskatchewan Trucking Association, Canadian Association of Movers, Saskatchewan Trucking Safety Council, and Atlas Van Lines Canada. His candid, no-nonsense approach has helped shape the transportation industry in Western Canada. In 1999, Dennis received the “Trailmobile Service to Industry Award,” the most prestigious award in the trucking world, in recognition of his commitment, vision, leadership and unstinting service. In 2004, he was inducted into the Saskatchewan Transportation Hall of Fame for his outstanding contributions.
Typically, Dennis modestly downplays his personal achievements, preferring instead to talk about Jay’s involvement in the community, of which he is especially proud. In addition to supporting many local community organizations and the MS Society, Jay’s is a major sponsor of the Kinsmen Telemiracle Foundation and hosts an annual golf tournament that has raised over a million dollars for Telemiracle.
Dennis’s determination, tenacity, ability to recognize opportunity, and willingness to take risks have served him well as he carefully built a thriving and diversified transportation company that offers a comprehensive range of services. As Dennis often comments, he has been fortunate to surround himself with great people who have been an important part of Jay’s success.
Both Dennis and Arlene have worked hard and made incredible personal sacrifices to bring their dream to fruition. Today, a Senior Management Team guides Jay’s into the future under new ownership. As of June 1/2013 Jay's Group of Companies operates as a subsidiary of Mullen Group Ltd.
As Dennis and Arlene take time to reflect on their long journey, they can be justifiably proud of what they have accomplished. The story of Jay’s Moving & Storage truly is a homegrown success story.