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Mat producer can't keep up with the orders.

Show Don Tremblay a building with a door and he can show you a market for his products.

Tremblay is the owner-manager of Matman, a small company in Sault Ste. Marie that produces rubber mats from scrapped tires.

The company, which started as a hobby, began operating last August. Tremblay saw a market opportunity, and wanted to jump in before a competitor did.

He and four employees worked seven-day weeks for the first six months of operation to keep pace with the incredible demand for Matman's products.

"The only negative aspect is how we're going to keep up with it all," Tremblay says.

Matman produces a line of standard exterior doormats, the modern version of the old-style chain link mats. The mats consist of long strips of rubber instead of small linked segments.

What makes the mats unique is the addition of colored polyethylene spacers. Any combination of nine colors can be woven into the black mats to suit customer desires.

Tremblay says customers like to color co-ordinate their doormat with their house.

With 40 Northern Ontario hardware stores selling its product, Matman has virtually penetrated the market in this part of the province. Tremblay is still working at breaking into North Bay and Timmins.

The four stores in Sault Ste. Marie and six in Sudbury that carry his mats were sold out of the product three times this past winter.

"We've been out-selling competitors about four-to-one," claims Tremblay. "People seem to be buying these mats where they never sold before."

Tremblay attributes much of the success to the addition of colors to the product.

In addition to selling residential mats, Matman has been busy filling orders from institutions, as well.

Immediately upon starting production, Matman received orders from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Ontario Hydro for truck bedliners. The rubber liners keep equipment clean and dry in the back of pickups.

As summer nears, Tremblay expects that demand will increase for a related product line, hull liners for aluminium boats.

The mats and liners are more than just attractive. They also offer a big safety advantage.

"They have been really super for eliminating slip and fall problems," says Tremblay. "It's adding what we're able to save people in insurance costs."

Both MacDonald's restaurants in the Sault use the step runners to protect customers from slippery tile entrance steps. Of course, the mats match the red and yellow MacDonald's corporate colors.

The Hospital in Elliot Lake also uses Matman doormats, and has written to the company stating it is the best mat the hospital has ever used.

The raw material for the mats comes from discarded tires. Matman has an agreement with the city of Sault Ste. Marie to collect all tires from the city landfill each week. Matman also collects from local tire shops.

The treads of bias ply tires go into the mats.

The sidewalls, meanwhile, are used to make "fatigue" mats. These soft rubber mats are used by people who stand for long hours on concrete floors.

The Ministry of Natural Resources also uses the fatigue mats in their tree nurseries.

However, steel-belted tires are not suitable for Matman's purposes.

"It's like making a mat out of barbed wire," Tremblay explains. Matman ships steel-belted tires to a re-treading operation in Michigan.

At the Canadian Home Hardware Show this winter in Toronto, interest in Matman products was "phenomenal," according to Tremblay. He reported receiving enquiries from distributors in Canada, the U.S., New Zealand and Hong Kong.

"I've turned down millions of dollars in business," he says, adding that he wants his business to experience slow, planned growth.

By next winter the business should double from its current output of about 1,500 mats per month. Tremblay plans to add another shift, hiring two to four new staff members.

Tremblay has lived in the Sault for most of his life. He says the proximity to the American border is crucial to Matman's success.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Focus on Sault Ste. Marie; Matman
Author:Smith, Guy
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Apr 1, 1992
Previous Article:Traders move paves way for waterfront development.
Next Article:Private investors seek approval to add competition to the market.

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