A Fixture in Dauphin

Steiner Plumbing and Heating has grown with the city and developed a community presence

By Pat Rediger

Steiner Plumbing and Heating in Dauphin is a company that was built and grown by demand.

Company founder Jim Steiner began plumbing as a teenager alongside his father in Grandview. After completing his apprenticeship in Winnipeg, he began a job as a licensed plumber in Dauphin. The quality of his workmanship didn’t go unnoticed by customers.

“A lot of people told me I should go into business because they liked my work,” said Steiner. “They talked me into opening my own business. I thought about returning to Grandview, but decided to set up shop in Dauphin in 1979.”

In the beginning, Steiner operated with one truck and some shop space he purchased on an acreage over five kilometres west of Dauphin. Though he was only 21 years old at the time, Steiner says he gained valuable experience in smaller shop settings where workers had a wide range of responsibilities. He found plenty of work through his new company and had to hire two employees during the first year.

In 1982, Steiner relocated to the city when his company purchased the Lennox dealership from Dauphin Sheet Metal. Steiner’s wife, Trudy, retired as a registered nurse to focus on bookkeeping for the company. Through this transaction, Steiner Plumbing and Heating continued to expand and eventually purchased the property next door for increased storage capacity. It also expanded its services to include HVAC and refrigeration.

In the years that followed, Steiner’s company gained a positive reputation due to its commitment to quality work and customer service. Many apprentices came through the company’s doors to hone their craft. Steiner recently retired and the ownership of the business has passed to his daughter, Carla, and her husband, Chris Wolfenden.

“My intention was always to make this business work and make my dad proud,” said Carla.

Steiner Plumbing and Heating has built up a solid base of residential customers over the years, which have kept the company going through tough times. Carla says that the company has also “grown with Dauphin” by playing a major role in the area’s commercial construction projects over the years.

“There aren’t many commercial buildings in Dauphin we weren’t involved in somehow and someway, whether it’s a renovation or addition or new build,” she said.

The company’s first big project was for the Salvation Army branch in Dauphin. In the 1980s, the company tackled projects in Dauphin for CIBC, the Rotary Arena, Rodeway Inn (now known as Canway Inn and Suites) and Boston Pizza. The 1990s were a busy time for the company, working on job sites in Dauphin at McDonalds, Extra Foods, RBC, BMO and the CN Station restoration. In the early 2000s, Steiner Plumbing and Heating did the plumbing and hydronics for the Credit Union Place arena in Dauphin, worked on the Norman Primary Health Care Centre in The Pas and did work on the Dauphin Co-op gas bar and carwash.

The current decade has also been busy. It assisted with the creation of the Countryfest Community Cinema and Ashcroft Vision Care. One of Steiner’s last big jobs before retiring was for Reit-Syd Equipment, a John Deere dealership. Carla said this job was “near and dear to my dad’s heart.”

“His grandpa was the first John Deere dealer in Manitoba back in the 1800s,” said Carla. “My dad restores John Deere tractors as a hobby and he goes to the convention in Iowa every few years. His swan song was the John Deere dealership. He told us it was special to him, but I think it’s a lot more special than we know.”

Leading up to Steiner’s retirement, he had wondered who would take over the business. The timing for a family transition worked out perfectly. Chris and Carla had been living in Winnipeg. Carla was working for Volleyball Canada and Chris – a former pro volleyball player for Team Canada – was interested in becoming a carpenter. Steiner encouraged them to move to Dauphin so Chris could try his hand at plumbing and then possibly take over the business. Chris took to the trade and Carla decided to take over the bookkeeping.

“Chris learned the ropes from my dad and I learned from my mom,” said Carla. “It’s kind of neat that my dad was the top apprentice when he graduated in the early ‘70s and Chris was the top apprentice in Manitoba when he graduated in 2015. My dad taught him well.”

The new ownership team of Steiner Plumbing and Heating is focused strongly on the future of the company, especially with the 40th anniversary approaching. Chris said the company has been committed to diversifying so it can tackle any project. For example, the company has entered into industrial work over the past couple years.

“We’re trying to modernize and be more approachable for modern workers as well,” said Chris. “Never getting complacent is one of the biggest things.”

Steiner Plumbing and Heating wants to continue giving back to the community. The company sponsors the Dauphin Kings Junior A hockey club and a number of big events like the Manitoba MudRun and Dauphin’s Countryfest.

“Having a great relationship with the community means a lot,” said Carla. “People can trust us because of that. We’re going to answer the phone 24/7 and deliver the parts and services our customers need.”

Steiner Plumbing and Heating is a newer member of the Construction Association of Rural Manitoba (CARM), but has already experienced many benefits.

“I was really excited to join CARM for the access to information and jobs prior to being invited by other prime contractors,” said Chris. “It’s basically allowed us to monitor everything that’s out there and stay ahead of the game. It’s given me more time and immediate access, which is the most important part of bidding for me.”

All photos courtesy of Steiner Plumbing and Heating