Life is about making decisions. For Alvin Gregorash, when faced with the decision to mortgage the future, he and wife Shirley decided to do exactly that.
It all began in 1988 when Standard Aero, a Winnipeg-based aeronautics leader informed its employees that it would close its piston engine division permanently. The company decided to focus on the turbine engine, leaving the piston market relatively un-serviced. While some saw the change as an indication that the piston market was fading in favour of the more profitable turbine market, Alvin saw it differently. A long time employee of Standard Aero and recently turned independent parts broker, Alvin knew there was plenty of room for growth. “I spent a lot of time in the trenches making deals with Standard and later on my own. There was a lot going on. It was an exciting time.”
When Standard Aero employees were unable to raise the capital required to move the business forward, Alvin decided to risk it all. “When Standard Aero’s President asked how I would finance the venture, I told him that I would mortgage the house, the wife and kids. That’s all he wanted to hear.”
There was risk all around the new venture, a select group of highly skilled employees choosing to join Alvin instead of accepting a different job at Standard. The group saw Alvin’s vision as one that would make real difference in the piston market, and not unlike Alvin, their belief was strong enough to make a change. “I knew it was worth it, so did the guys,” Alvin said. “I also knew that if we were going to be successful, we were going to have to establish our own identity in the piston engine market as a company that delivers quality and service.”
Operating under a new name, Aero Recip (Canada) Ltd, Alvin and his team earned the opportunity to prove themselves with a small group of customers. Hard work, skilled attention to detail, and timely delivery of results enabled the company to grow past tough times into a thriving business.
Alvin’s wheeling and dealing didn’t stop there, expanding throughout the 90’s beyond the company’s exclusive focus on engines. In 1993, he invested in Ultimate Oil Coolers, a specialty overhaul service that operates out of the Winnipeg plant in 1,400 square feet of space. In 1996, after tragedy had struck the owner of a small parts distribution company, Alvin acquired its assets and formed Airparts Network. “We used to go for lunch every second Friday,” he explains, speaking of the owner. “I had lost a great friend.”
Shortly afterward, Alvin invested in Cantherm, a company that distributes the Arcotherm series, European made heaters for aviation, construction and many other applications. In 1999, during a trade show in Anchorage, after seeing that small aircraft was such a big part of northern life, Alvin bought Sea Air, a local overhaul facility for Lycoming and Continental engines. “It blew my mind. Everyone flies a plane up there. I got to know people really quickly too. They’re a lot like us. Same values. We knew right away there was a good fit.”
Growth continued into the millennium when he formed Dyno Power Experimental. Once again, it was Alvin’s entrepreneurialism that recognized the need for piston expertise in the highly innovative recreational market. “It’s like the wild west out there. We have standards and procedures that help operators make the right decisions when building their projects.”
With both an overhaul facility and a separate parts warehouse in Winnipeg, Canada, Alvin’s entrepreneurial ventures have combined to become a one-stop shop for aviation engines, parts and supplies. With his daughter Tracey by his side, Gregorash Aviation remains true to the principles of family and to the camaraderie that has built its success. Just as importantly, it enables an entrepreneurial legacy to continue to flourish, while no doubt decisions to mortgage the future will be considered from time to time.