HomeMeet the small business ownerMeet the small business owner: Louie Katsis, Co-owner, Olympic Kitchens

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Louie Katsis, co-owner of Olympic Kitchens
Meet the small business owner: Louie Katsis, Co-owner, Olympic Kitchens
March 2, 2023

You can hear the pride in Caary customer Louie Katsis’ voice when he tells the story of Olympic Kitchens, a family business founded by his father and two uncles. The three brothers immigrated from Greece to Toronto in 1971, leaving behind poverty, hardships and family in hopes of a better future.

With carpentry skills and an unmatched work ethic, they started working in the kitchen industry, learning the ropes of the business while also learning to speak English. In 1973, they struck out on their own, starting Olympic Kitchens from the garage of the home where Louie was born.

To understand how much the business has grown since those early days, look no further than their 55,000 square foot manufacturing facility and 4,000 square foot showroom! But that growth has never been at the expense of quality. Olympic Kitchens still crafts every single kitchen in-house instead of purchasing and assembling the parts – a rarity in the industry.

From firefighter to business owner

Today, Louie is co-owner of Olympic Kitchens, but running a business wasn’t always his plan. Wanting to forge his own path, Louie pursued a course in firefighting but realized early on it wasn’t the right fit for him. There was one aspect of the course that he enjoyed, however. As part of his fire protection engineering training, Louie had excelled at AutoCAD, a design and drafting software that’s also used for renovations. Bringing this new skill to his family business, Louie pivoted from firefighting to kitchen design.

“I was totally green. And this was at a time where there was no HGTV, no publications or magazines. Some of my first clients wanted something funky and they had many key lime green accents and pillows in their home. So I said, ‘why don’t we do a key lime green kitchen?’. And they loved it! I realized that including clients in the process is the best way to ensure they are thrilled with the end result. Help guide them by paying attention to their ideas, listening to their needs, and creating something that’s unique to them.”

It’s all about family pride

Having found his calling, Louie became a key part of the family business, officially taking over as co-owner with his cousin, Ilias, in 2000. For Louie, Olympic Kitchens is more than a job – it’s a legacy and a business that he’s proud to attach to his family name.

“Running a family business comes with a lot of pride. Treating people with respect and giving the best to our clients is what we do as a family. Every job is unique because every client’s needs are unique. It’s really exciting to see their faces when it all comes together, and they’re just in awe of the quality of the cabinets and how everything ties in and functions together. The payoff for me is leaving a happy client who then refers their friends and family. That’s what I’ve been doing since day one, and I still do it today.”

Louie Katsis, co-owner of Olympic KitchensA feat of engineering

To deliver exceptional quality kitchens, Louie is quick to highlight the importance of the engineers behind the scenes. When flipping through home magazines or browsing Pinterest, most people credit the designers for the creation of a beautiful kitchen. But to ensure everything is safe and installed correctly, you need highly skilled engineers on your team – especially if you offer customers a breadth of options and customizations.

“With kitchens, a lot of people get caught up in the glitz, the photos, and the new design trends. But there is a lot of engineering needed to pull that off successfully. It might seem simple, but at times we’re engineering projects as if we’re building an airplane. Everything needs to be factored in. The specifications of appliances are always changing, and so is the fine print of the building codes. We have great designers – that’s a must so that we’re innovative with styles and trends. But we also invest heavily in our engineering team. They’re very smart people who frankly don’t get the credit they deserve.”

Respecting timelines

With a skilled team and an ever-growing list of happy clients, Louie has plenty to be proud of. But his biggest source of pride is building a business that ensures every project runs smoothly – especially in an industry where delays are common and hugely impactful for clients.

“98% of our projects get installed on time, which is just not normal in our industry. The installs are smooth, there are no issues or hassles for the client, and we always keep quality front and center. A renovation is a sensitive time for the client, especially if they’re living in the home or have a timeline to return home. If something goes wrong and you have to fix it, you can add four weeks to the project timeline, which is hugely stressful. I’m very proud of building a business that people can rely on.”

Navigating the pandemic

Life as a business owner hasn’t always been smooth sailing, however. Supply chain issues brought on by the pandemic have made the past three years challenging – especially for a business that prides itself on sticking to timelines. But Louie’s team has risen to the challenge, adopting project management software and refining their processes to ensure the work stays on track.

“The supply chain issues have forced us to do more due diligence and be even more focused on making sure jobs go smoothly. During the pandemic, if you ordered material and something went wrong, you wouldn’t be able to get that material again. There was no room for mistakes. Our success rate was high before the pandemic, but now it’s even higher because of all the tools we adopted to stay organized.”

Get the right people on the bus

Having successfully taken over the family business, managed a complex move into a much larger facility, and navigated a global pandemic, Louie has plenty of advice for other small business owners. But his number one tip is to surround yourself with the right people – and to treat those people well.

“Hire people that can see the big picture and what you’re trying to create. It’s really important to get the right people on the bus. We’re fortunate that we have some really key players in our office that have been with us for a long time. You have to take care of them – you’ve got to make the job fulfilling and worthwhile.”

Learn more about Olympic Kitchens and check out some of their exceptional work here.

Louie Katsis, co-owner of Olympic Kitchens