Mario Gianniotis’s father has a familiar entrepreneurial tale: “He immigrated to Canada from Greece with $20 in his pocket in the ’70s,” explains the junior Gianniotis. “He didn’t speak English, but he started working in construction and finally started his own business.”
Two decades later, Mario and his older brother Stelios looked at their father’s carpentry business and saw potential. “We saw the opportunity to take a small business and make it a big business,” he says. In 2005, Mario and Stelios launched their own firm—which specialized in finish carpentry, the meticulous final touches of a project—and the seeds of Riverside Millwork Group were planted. The years since have seen two additional companies bought and folded into the Riverside brand, which is based in London and Waterloo, Ont.
Specializing initially in interior doors and custom trim, Riverside sought to widely expand its offerings as the next generation launched their firm. “We focused on things that weren’t available at big box stores, products that were 50 or 60 years old, and gaps in the market with regards to products we couldn’t source easily,” says Gianniotis. When they couldn’t find specific specialty products for particular jobs—like arched doorways, shaped windows or custom mouldings—they invested in their own equipment and made it themselves. For those projects that can’t be solved with a cookie-cutter solution, Riverside has real people to create workable solutions.
This approach seems almost quaint, admittedly, but along with an old-school model, the company is using a whole lot of cutting-edge technology, data analytics, social media and online marketing. The website, for example, boasts a sassy lifestyle blog (“Traditional vs. contemporary interior doors: what’s your flavour?”) and a stylish Instagram feed with inspirational quotes (“When opportunity knocks, make sure your door isn’t locked!”) Meanwhile, the company’s 140 full-time employees are also about to get a serious tech upgrade. “We’re developing software for our staff to be able to provide real-time quotes in the field, on the spot,” says Gianniotis. The as yet unnamed app will be rolled out first internally, then to outside industry professionals and finally to the general public. A series of questions, measurements and product choices will let users customize their space, get an immediate quote and click for a Riverside carpenter to show up at their door. No assembly required.