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Rita Schalla runs Brookdale Plumbing & Heating Ltd with her husband Brian Schalla. It’s family owned, and her two sons also work for the business.  She lives next door to me, and has for over 21 years. She is her own boss, and I really admire that. Starting and maintaining a business isn’t easy, but she continues to do so to this day.  In this interview she tells me how she got into her business, and some of the problems she’s had to face and how she’s overcome them. Now, onto the interview.

 

HH: So, tell me what you do for your job.

RS: My name is Rita Schalla. I am part owner of Brookdale Plumbing & Heating, and I am their office manager.

HH: Ok, so day to day, what do you find yourself doing?

RS: Most of my day is spent doing the books, answering the phones, keeping the guys in line. More so the construction guys than our service guys, because we have a service manager to do that. *laughs*

HH: *laughs* Ok, and how did you come to get this job?

RS: Ok truth. One, I married the owner’s son. Two, the secretary was fleecing the company, and when we finally discovered it in the books I quit my job and went to help my husband.

HH: Oh wow, were there any repercussions for what she did?

RS: No we just fired her and let it go, and remortgaged our house, bailed ourselves out, and kept going.

HH: Wow.

RS: 24 years ago.

HH: Do you regret not doing anything?

RS: You know what? No. She was an older lady at the time, and yeah, it would have been a lot of money to take her to court and it just wasn’t worth it.

HH: That makes sense. What’s your favourite part of your job? Is there any interesting thing that you’re able to do or that you’ve seen?

RS: You know, not really that it’s an interesting thing. I love the people I work with.

HH: That’s a good thing to have.

RS: Yeah, the guys in the office are fun to be around. Do we fight? Absolutely, scream rant rave. For the most part we get along, and work wise, I love numbers.

HH: Yeah.

RS: I wish I would’ve been an accountant. *laughs*

HH: Oh really? *laughs*

RS: Yeah, but I love working.

HH: Is there a worst part of the job?

RS: The worst part of my job in all honesty is here it is 2016 and the disrespect I get for being a female in the industry, the construction industry.

HH: Oh ok.

RS: There are certain customers that will not speak to me because I’m a woman. They will scream at me, call me names, everything, and yet when they talk to Brian they are absolutely fine. The questions I ask them, Brian gets an answer, I don’t.

HH: Oh, have you ever… how do you get over that?

RS: Little vindictiveness, for some of the people we have to go pick up the payments, I go into their business and pick up the check and I make Brian wait in the car.

HH: *laughs* What’s the part of your job that makes you the proudest?

RS: I guess my proudest moment would be the boys following in their dad’s footsteps.

HH: Oh right because it’s a family business.

RS: Yup, because it’s a family business so, you know, starting with grandpa, going to Brian, both of the boys being in it, and proud that we’ve continued on that tradition since 1967. So it’s been around a long time.

HH: Do you think your sons plan to pass it on to their kids as well?

RS: If I had my way, in all honesty, I would talk my kids out of owning a business in this day and age. It is not the business of the 70’s and 80’s when construction was flourishing in the city. It is tough out there, it’s a struggle, collecting money has been the worst I’ve seen it in about 15 years. So it’s… could my kids do it? Yes. Are they tough enough to do it? No, I don’t think they are. They’re not mean enough.

HH: Oh ok, I see.

RS: But you know what, you grow a thick skin in this industry, and here’s hoping I can still do this till the day I retire. *laughs* I’m only 52, I have a long way to go.

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