Meet the new Slave Lake Canadian Tire owner

Joe McWilliams

Lakeside Leader

There’s been a change at the top of the Slave Lake Canadian Tire store recently. Lokesh Mahajan took over on Feb. 23 as franchise owner, making the jump from a small town in southwestern Ontario.

That was Mahajan’s first foray into Canadian Tire ownership, after a career in other types of stores and hotel and restaurant management that began in Edmonton in the 1990s, touched down in various parts of the country and now has him and his wife Monika back in Alberta.

“Slave Lake is a dream come true,” he says.

Not that Forest, Ontario, was a bad place to cut one’s teeth as a Canadian Tire owner. But they call Edmonton home, and that’s where their two children (both in university) live. So after 2 ½ years running the “the second-smallest store in Canada,” they had an eye out for an opportunity closer to home.

“When we got Slave Lake we felt our prayers had been answered,” Mahajan says.

It’s been quite a journey for Mahajan to get from where he started to where he is now. The story begins in India. He calls Dehradun, a town in the Himalayan foothills, his home town – although with his father a career military man, there was a lot of moving around.

“I came to Canada in ’96, with $800 in my pocket,” he says. “And a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. I worked hard.”

Mahajan had a degree in hotel management, but jobs were hard to find in Toronto at the time. He had an uncle at the Royal Glenora Club in Edmonton and got on there as a chef. A position as assistant manager at a Pizza Hut followed, from which he was promoted to general manager. It was a valuable learning experience, Mahajan says, involving, “doing everything.”

Next up in the Mahajan career arc was a management gig with the Delta Centre Suites in Edmonton, involving a lot of traveling. It was a good experience, he says, getting to know the country in that way, but eventually, “my wife said enough is enough.” In other words, it was time to settle down back in Edmonton.

In 2006, Mahajan joined Home Depot as an assistant manager.

“That was a totally different ball game,” he says. “I didn’t even know the difference between white wood and pressure-treated.”

He learned, though, and within two years had been promoted to general manager, looking after stores in Sherwood Park and Whitemud. After eight years with Home Depot, he became aware of opportunities for owner-management with Canadian Tire. One thing led to the next, and here we are.

Mahajan runs a shop with 35 full and part-time employees. It has a prominent role in the community of Slave Lake, which he says he recognizes and is keen to enhance.

“I want to support as much as I can this community,” he says, calling it “my honour” to continue as the principal sponsor of the Canadian Tire Anglers Cup walleye tournament (coming right up in June!).

Mentoring and supporting employees is also an important part of what he wants to do, Mahajan says. There are lots of examples, he adds, of kids who start as part-timers while they are in school “and now they’re running their own franchises! Our job is to help them.”

As for early impressions of Slave Lake, Mahajan says it’s been really good so far.

“It’s very heartwarming,” he says, of the welcome he and Monika have received. “It feels like home.”

Lokesh and Monika Mahajan

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