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70 years in business, 60 years of impact

Ottawa, Ontario

When you reach the top of the stairs leading to Andy Cotnam’s office, you’re greeted by a wall overflowing with framed thank-yous from various charities, customers and suppliers. They’re from the many people and organizations who Andy has touched—in one way or another—over the years, including United Way. 

The theme continues inside his office at the Fireplace Center & Patio Shop, where it seems like every square inch of wall is adorned with grateful messages and family photos.  

Andy is the President and General Manager and has been with the company for more than 40 years— building strong relationships with employees and the community over the years. If you show up right after the doors open to their head office location on Carling Avenue, you’ll likely catch Andy making his rounds to say good morning to each staff member present that day.

The Fireplace Center & Patio Shop’s 70th anniversary

The family-run business was founded by Andy’s father Clifton back in 1952. This year, they’re celebrating their 70th year in business, along with another notable milestone.  

“I was speaking with my eldest brother to try to get some of the history before myself, and we figured my dad started working with United Way back in the 60s,” says Andy. 

That’s 60 years of partnership. Six decades of making an impact on the lives of local people who depend on the generosity of donors like Andy and his employees. 

“We have two significant business events each year that bring our entire staff together,” Andy says. “One is the Christmas party and the other is our annual United Way workplace campaign launch.” 

It shows. The 50-member staff has achieved a 100 per cent participation rate in their campaign various times over the years. In 2022, they set a goal of raising $70K in honour of 70 years. It’s no surprise that for the local business that has always had community front-and-centre, that they’ve met their goal.

“It’s very inspiring for myself to see the support. When you’ve worked with people for a long time, really it thrills me to see my staff’s growth, whether it’s the marriage, the first child, the house, so it’s really rewarding to see them give back.”

Andy says he and his employees have made United Way East Ontario (previously United Way Ottawa) their charity of choice for several reasons. He says he appreciates that United Way knows what the local issues are, where help is most needed, and how to invest donations wisely in order to create the biggest impact.  

“We also really do feel it’s important to contribute to the community who supports us,” says Andy.  

The power of multiplication

When speaking to his employees at their United Way campaign launch earlier this fall, Andy mused about something many of us experience: how a two-dollar daily coffee turns into 10 dollars a week, 520 dollars a year, and so on.  

Andy wants the same to be true for charitable contributions, which is why his company matches every donation they receive. “We’re really thrilled to do that,” he says.

“In these economic times, any time you can make your dollar go further, that’s a win.”