It all started with just $300 and an offer to buy a business.
It was 1947 and Henry, Lawrence and Leo Bourget had just come back from WWII. To them, that $300 was a big investment but one that certainly paid off over the next seventy years.
The money went to purchasing a concrete manufacturing plant on the corner of 10th Street and Olympic Boulevard. Just three years later the product line was already expanding. By 1950, Bourget Bros Building Materials was selling plumbing fixtures, masonry, landscaping supplies and tools as well as concrete.
“The three of them worked their tails off,” the company’s current CEO Debbie Kanan said. “It was hard labor. It was literally making cement blocks down on that corner.”
Over the next seven decades, the business changed hands from older brothers to younger brothers and eventually became a corporation. The three founders have passed away but their siblings John and Leonard remain at the helm as President and CFO. Their brother-in-law, Roy, had also been involved in the business but recently passed away after a decades long retirement.
Kanan says the whole family would have been proud to see the company where it stands today, thriving on its 70th anniversary.
“It’s a tremendous milestone for any company now,” Kanan said. “It’s kind of a cool thing to have such an institution here for so long that so many generations of people have come to. I don’t know where else you can find that nowadays.”
The company has 70 fulltime employees split between Bourget Bros. Building Materials on 11th Street and Bourget Flagstone Co. on Colorado Avenue near 18th Street. Growing the business has not always been easy, and Kanan says the company faced lean times after the 2008 housing market collapse.
“We kept people employed but we had to cut back their hours but they stayed with us those couple years and now back into regular operations and the doors never closed,” Kanan said, adding several of the company’s competitors folded during that difficult time.
“We saw through that wave and we’re back on the upswing right now,” Kanan said. “Business is doing well. There’s a lot of construction in Santa Monica.”
That doesn’t mean it’s been easy. Bourget Bros has to compete with nearby big box retailers and online sales. Kanan says good customer service keeps contractors and homeowners loyal.
“Eye contact, a warm greeting, and a big smile on your face – that’s the key to success,” Kanan said.
It doesn’t hurt that many of their clients feel a tinge of nostalgia when they walk in the door.
“We’re working with guys that their dads and their grandfathers came here to buy supplies.”