Victoria furniture-store founder Gordy Dodd happiest helping others

Gordy Dodd is mulling over a version of those bearded Duck Dynasty reality TV characters for his next made-in-Victoria television commercial.

The blockbuster movie Avatar with its blue-coloured aliens is also being considered as inspiration for another of Dodd’s well-known videos promoting his furniture business.

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Dodd’s humorous alter-egos have been modelled on Godzilla, James Bond, Indiana Jones, Batman, the Hulk, Superman, Bob Barker and more.

The ads grew out of two experiences years ago. Dodd attended a business seminar where participants were urged to “do different or die.” The message was, in tough economic times, think creatively to stand out and survive.

Dodd was also galvanized by a trip to Las Vegas where he posed for photos by putting his head in cardboard cutouts of John Wayne, Elvis Presley and Superman.

It’s part of his successful business formula. Dodd’s Furniture and Mattress has two locations — 715 Finlayson St. in Victoria and 6421 Applecross Rd. in Nanaimo. These days, the stores are run by his son, Love, and son-in-law Jag Sahota.

Dodd, 69, remains active in the business. This week, he drove a truck to Vancouver to collect furniture, just like he did when he first started the business with his wife, Ravinder, more than 30 years ago.

“When I’m in Victoria, I work,” said Dodd, who says he likes to keep busy.

He takes time off work to travel and support a variety of charities. Next month, his annual Thanksgiving dinner will feed 1,000 people. Shortly after that, he leaves for his home village of Jalwehra in the Punjab in northern India. He visits the village, which has about 200 houses, twice a year.

Dodd is one of seven children. Their father was a teacher and didn’t have time to work the family’s 50 acres. After earning a bachelor’s degree, Dodd started farming, growing produce and raising cattle.

But there wasn’t enough work in the village and there wasn’t enough land to divide among the siblings to create viable farms.

Dodd and Ravinder turned their attention to Canada, where one of his sisters lived. “We were always hearing that Canada was a beautiful country.”

He drove a cab in Victoria, watching for opportunities. He found a spot to lease in 1977 at the corner of Quadra Street and Kings Road. That became his first furniture store.

An acquaintance from a nearby village in India provided useful startup advice. As for business skills, Dodd points out, “farming is a business, too.”

A $1,200 investment in a small truck got the business rolling. Dodd would go to Vancouver to pick up a few sofas or dining-room sets to sell in Victoria. He paid cash because he couldn’t get credit.

Dodd repeatedly credits Ravinder for the work she put into the business, doing double-duty while caring for son Love and daughter Aman at the same time. “My wife helped me a lot.”

The store was open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and, after closing, Dodd did deliveries, often finishing at 11 p.m. or midnight. There was no money to hire staff.

That hard work helped inspire Dodd to help others. His community work includes Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and his annual Walk for Peace in support of Victoria Hospice. He donates to the elementary school in Jalwehra and arranges medical clinics in the village, bringing in doctors who provide treatment and medicines. So far, more than 55 eye operations have been performed.

His siblings are all in Canada now and Dodd has two granddaughters.

The soft-spoken Dodd believes in treating others with respect. He shakes the hands of all staff when he enters the store. When speaking to students about business, he encourages them to be kind, courteous and reflect at day’s end on whether they have done something that made them feel good.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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