In a province that has a documented lukewarm relationship with immigrants, Madan Kapahi is a spectacular success story. Born in India, he came to Canada to study law. He met his wife and opened the first Wicker Emporium in 1972 in Scotia Square. "Coming from Asia we were very familiar with wicker and basketware, and we wanted to have it here too. But it was not available here. We wanted to locate the product but we could not find it. So we thought it was a good idea to introduce this product in our area."
There are now 19 Wicker Emporium outlets in Atlantic Canada, employing 150 people. Kapahi has seen the competition ramp up over the years: "It gives us more of a challenge and we learn from them too. Bigger companies like Pier 1, we love to have them as our neighbours at Halifax Shopping Centre," he says. "Plus we're very cost-effective. We ship directly to Halifax, a very good port. Product comes in our warehouse, and we distribute using local trucking companies. There's no middle man."
Much of Kapahi's product comes from Egypt, China and countries in southern Asia—one might wonder how his company warrants inclusion in The Coast's Buy Local guide. Consider how many other locally owned businesses have benefited from Wicker Emporium: regionally owned companies; packers, marketers and media; merchandisers, decorators; local construction companies. Calculate that impact over 37 years.
"People have the perception we are all across Canada and the USA," says Kapahi, who says local success may obscure the fact that the company is headquartered here. "We do run a business that is very professional."