Taking on the Regal mantle
Mimi Grad at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s pro-shop. (photo by Cynthia Ramsay)
As an independent sales ambassador for Regal Home and Gifts Inc., Mimi Grad told the Independent, “I don’t sell anything. I educate people on what is available and what the items can be used for.”
Grad was born and raised in Vancouver, as were her four siblings. They are third-generation Jewish Vancouverites – both of their parents were born in Vancouver and their maternal grandmother was born at Vancouver General Hospital in 1899.
“My parents were heavily involved in the local Jewish community, as my maternal grandfather was instrumental in the building of the Beth Israel Synagogue,” said Grad.
This is what led to Grad’s involvement in United Synagogue Youth as a teen and her going on the USY Pilgrimage to Israel in 1973.
“As an older teen,” she said, “I went back to Israel in 1976 for a six-month kibbutz-ulpan program and, as an adult, I was part of Canadian Hadassah-WIZO in Vancouver. The local Hadassah Bazaar never ran without Mimi in the Food Building … as the supplies assistant, beginning at the age of 12, or as the food chair.”
Grad and her partner, Gordon Jay, have been together for 21 years, and live in Burnaby. She has held several jobs over the years, including being a swimming instructor and a lifeguard at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.
Currently, Grad is the pro-shop coordinator at the JCCGV, a position she has held since September 2015, and also works as a cashier at the Real Canadian Superstore. Both jobs satiate Grad’s need to interact with different people.
“It was many years ago when I walked into a Regal warehouse on Prince Edward Street, just south of Southeast Marine Drive,” recalled Grad. “I was looking for plastic hole protectors for my shower curtain, as I had one hole that was ripped and I really liked that particular shower curtain.
“At that time, you could just walk in off the street and purchase goods there. The cashier told me that I could save 15% if I registered as a sales rep for Regal. What the heck, why not? And, it was free to do. Then, they started sending me catalogues, and I could buy more of them to share with people.”
Grad was not yet ready to be a sales representative at that point but reencountered the idea about 10 years ago.
Her mom was looking for another source of income in her senior years. “She figured she’d try Regal,” said Grad. “However, she wasn’t getting out much by then, nor was she (or my dad) driving at night. She even asked me to sign up and help her.
“Unfortunately, I was too busy with work, the hubby and life in general to be of much help. And then, dad stopped driving. When mom and dad moved into care, they couldn’t do business there. And then, Regal went bankrupt.
“Another company purchased it in 2005 and, lo and behold, that company went into receivership in August 2016.”
By November 2016, the Regal name was purchased and a new company – Regal Home and Gifts Inc. – started building a catalogue. It was up and running with its first catalogue just under two months ago.
The company behind Regal Home and Gifts has another online business and put many of their products into the first Regal catalogue.
“Regal started in Canada in 1928 as a stationery company. The Regal name has been associated with retailing and direct sales ever since,” said Grad. “Regal Home and Gifts is a newly formed corporation that returns the Regal brand to Canadian ownership, offering Canadian consumers functional and attractive houseware products and gifts through a network of dedicated ambassadors (independent sales representatives), a tradition of the Regal brand.
“They’ve been known over the years for selling kitschy items and plan to have more items like that with their next few catalogues. Like any new business, they’re experiencing growing pains and feeling out the consumers.”
As Grad is almost 60 and eyeing retirement, she felt that her savings needed a boost and decided to be proactive, finding a job she could do from home on her own time. “Honestly, Regal is my retirement plan,” she said.
“I’ve organized my schedule, so, between the JCC and Superstore, I’m generally off work by 2:30 p.m., leaving me with lots of time for my honey and for Regal.”
Grad is excited to spend her days meeting with people – helping them find what they are looking for, placing orders, and even doing evening deliveries. With Regal’s four to six catalogues per year, Grad is looking forward to being out and about most of the time, introducing new people to the products and the company.
“It is then their choice if they want to buy something or not, filling their need for an item,” said Grad.
“I’ve always felt that women made the best car salespeople, because I believe we’re more consultative … not just asking questions like, ‘Which car do you want to buy?’ but ‘Why do you need a car?’
“And, as always, all commissions are made from catalogue sales. Nothing is paid for introducing someone to this business.”
One can buy from the Regal catalogue almost anywhere in Canada. The company is still waiting for direct sales licensing in a couple of provinces, but has completed that process here.
“The first thing I’m always asked is, ‘Can I have a catalogue?’” said Grad. “Everyone wants to see what’s new.”
Anyone interested can peruse the online catalogue and purchase from Grad’s personal Regal website at regal.ca/?amb=9742420.
Rebeca Kuropatwa is a Winnipeg freelance writer.