You know him as the Hulk, as Superman, as Zorro, as John Wayne, as James Bond (Dodd, Gordy Dodd), and even as Elvis. But there might be things you don’t know about Gordy Dodd, furniture kingpin and star of those delightfully wacky TV ads.
Born in a small village at the foot of the Himalayas in India’s Punjab region, Dodd immigrated to Victoria in 1977 and wasted no time establishing his furniture business, selling discount wares from cramped digs at Quadra and Kings. Five years of long hours allowed Dodd to establish an upscale showroom on Finlayson, right across from Mayfair Shopping Centre. And after 10 years of building a steady clientele, Dodd built his own pleasure dome of a showroom — 35,000 square feet over three floors.
Running Vancouver Island’s largest furniture store, with its staff of 25 (including his son), seems almost secondary to a man as admired for his generosity as for his business savvy.
Dodd provides the less fortunate with an annual turkey dinner and donates regularly to community groups, sports teams, school associations, and social relief organizations. Typical is his recent gift of 50 mattresses and 100 blankets to the new hostel run by The Upper Room.
In the middle of our conversation, Dodd starts rummaging through his wallet, pulls out a dog-eared business card and hands it to me.
“One time about 20 years ago, I went to Edmonton from Calgary on the bus,” he says, “an old man comes on and starts giving these cards to everyone.”
The words on the card carry a simple missive: “The most graceful of all the virtues is to develop the habit of giving something every day as per your ability.”
“I’ve carried it with me every day,” says Dodd. “It’s always reminding me to do something, to give.”
Why did you switch from selling furniture to low-end buyers to stocking higher-end items?
Everyone wants to go better, better, better. Plus, when you get more experience and more knowledge about the line, and your expenses go up, you want to make more money. You have to make more money.
How tough is it to sell furniture?
Everything is tough these days. You have to take the challenge and fight for that. You can work 40 hours a week, but if you want to be successful in any line you have to work hard, 60 hours a week or more, and you have to sacrifice in your social life. You have to make your family understand that working 40 hours in a week won’t take you up.
Has the exploding real estate market helped business?
The building boom just came in the last few years. Before that it was pretty stable; the growth was very slow. [The company’s growth] is better than I planned, actually. The [TV] ads are a big help.
Are there any new trends in the furniture biz?
These days everyone wants leather. I remember when it was cloth. A few years ago everyone liked light colours, now everyone likes dark colours. Every five years, trends change: style, colour, designs. It’s always challenging to get something that we can sell.
Who came up with the idea for those wacky television ads?
They’re my own thinking. [Senior writer/producer] Mike Woloshen at CH-TV, who has been working over there for a long time, has been helping me. The last ad, he told me, “Let’s do something about Bollywood” so we did. The Incredible Hulk is No. 1. Everybody loves it. Everybody talks about it.
Are there any pop culture icons you haven’t spoofed on your commercials yet that you’d like to do?
There’s one I’m working on now. It’s Bob Barker from “The Price Is Right.” He’s retiring so everyone has him on their minds these days. I’ll try to pick up some of his acting and his wording and the way he speaks. You know how he does this with his microphone [Dodd flourishes an imaginary mic just like Barker]. I haven’t even told Mike [Woloshen] about that one yet.
I understand Mister American Bandstand himself, Dick Clark, asked to use one of your commercials for a prime time network special in the U.S. called “World’s Funniest Commercials.”
They emailed me and asked for my permission. I was really surprised. Then CH-TV came around and did a story. Then A-Channel was here and the newspaper and I had Ed Bain making jokes about it. I watched it on TV in July and it was wonderful.
In 1998, you began serving an annual Thanksgiving dinner to feed the less fortunate and attracted over 100 people. This year you hope to feed 500. Does the fact that it grew so quickly, indicating there were a growing number of people in need out there, dishearten you?
In my religion [Dodd is a Sikh], what they tell us is if you can afford it, you have to spend or donate for the welfare of the poor people. Homeless people are a big thing in this city and bigger in India. I started feeding the needy and it gives me happiness and satisfaction. [The dinner is] growing, growing, growing and the feedback from the public is giving me more and more energy.
How important is it for business owners to be actively involved in the community?
I encourage everyone to get involved. It’s a good thing. It gives you a nudge. There are lots of societies and charities. Lots of things could be done for the hospitals and the schools and sports.
Do you think the city is doing enough to solve some of the social problems on our streets?
It could be solved so easily, but the politics [get in the way]. So many problems go unsolved in this city due to politics. You have four councillors on one side of the room who say “yes” and four councillors on the other side who say “no” and the thing is done, finished.
What would you like people to know about Gordy Dodd that they don’t already know?
I think they know everything now.