What’s in a name, you ask?
If you’re Jeet Sandhu, there’s plenty. History, family pride and a connection to a community that has been so good to him.
“This is where it all started,” says Sandhu, owner of the recently opened Island Home Forever furniture outlet on Beverly Street. “This is where our roots are.”
The Sandhu family’s connection to Vancouver Island goes back to the mid-1930s when Jeet’s father, Sandy (Chanan) Sandhu first came to Canada. He worked at the Mesachie Lake sawmill before venturing out into the retail furniture business.
During a grand opening celebration attended by family members, staff and business partners, Jeet Sandhu gave an emotional tribute to his 97-year-old father, who not only worked at the sawmill, but began to develop his entrepreneurial spirit as a young immigrant from India’s Punjab province.
“With his hard work he did the whole double shift thing, go work in the sawmill plus go door-to-door selling all kinds of things, TVs, you name it, he’s done it.
“In the summer holidays, when I was 16, him and I would go knocking on doors together. He’d take one side of the street, I’d take the other. We’d dig up leads because ladies were home in those days. Then when the husband came home we’d go back and see what we could do.”
Sandy Sandhu and his brother returned to India for a period during the Second World War before returning to Canada. Jeet was born in 1945 in India but didn’t join his father in Lake Cowichan until 1954. He graduated from Lake Cowichan High School in 1966.
“I never saw him until I came to Canada in 1954,” Sandhu recalls of those post-war years when many immigrants left their home country in hopes of earning money to send home to support their families. Sandy Sandhu took a different approach, choosing to settle in British Columbia where he would raise his family and make his mark in the business world.
Beginning with a small store in Lake Cowichan, the elder Sandhu began building a string of furniture stores — under the Merit Furniture brand — throughout the Island and in the Interior.
The father and son team now have outlets in Nanaimo, Campbell River, Port Alberni, and Kamloops as well as the downtown Duncan Merit Furniture location.
“So that’s why you see that not so common name, Island Home Forever, on the building,” Sandhu explains.