Both sides of the story
With demand at an all-time high, Ultimate Bath Systems manages growth on both the consumer and manufacturing fronts
Photo: Julie DiGirolamo of Ultimate Bath Systems and National Acrylics
JULIE DIGIROLAMO BELIEVES your bathroom needs to be an appealing, comfortable place to begin and end your day.
DiGirolamo and her husband, Pino, have made it their business to create such spaces. The couple owns Ultimate Bath Systems, a company that renovates and remodels bathrooms, as well as National Acrylics, a business that manufactures acrylic shower and tub surrounds for contractors, renovators and construction firms, as well as for use in installations by Ultimate Bath.
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According to DiGirolamo, the pandemic hasn’t put much of a dent in either side of operations. In fact, it’s been particularly busy for both businesses, which operate out of the same facility on Leathorne Street. “We’re doing a lot more tub to shower conversions, and also walk-in tubs and soaker tubs, mainly for people who are aging and want a safer environment to enable them to continue living in their home,” DiGirolamo says of the Ultimate Bath Systems operation. Ultimate Bath also does a fair bit of commercial work in apartment buildings and for property management companies.
The Americans have mostly found us. They like our product ― and the exchange rate on our dollar makes us attractive” ―Julie DiGirolamo
In a year when people stayed home and turned their attention to home renovation projects, there’s also been an increased demand for National Acrylics’ products by renovators, contractors and DIYers. The surge in demand has created a need for more workers, and DiGirolamo is finding it hard to fill positions these days. “We’ve advertised and we’re doing lots of word-of-mouth hiring,” she says.
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The DiGirolamos made the decision to expand into the manufacturing side in 2011 as material costs for Ultimate Bath started to skyrocket. “We used to get our shower and tub surrounds from the States because nobody was making them in Canada. But with the border fees and exchange rate, they were getting really pricey,” explains DiGirolamo. “So, we looked at what it would take to make our own.”
They purchased equipment and started producing wall panels as Canadian Acrylics, selling to contractors across Canada and eventually across the border. Initially, the surrounds were manufactured in classic white, then a designer line was introduced offering a variety of colours and patterns.
With increasing sales in the U.S. and knowing there can be protectionist tendencies that favour American-made, the DiGirolamos decided on a name change to National Acrylics. They also promote the products as being manufactured in North America.
“When we first started manufacturing, we did a lot of door-knocking, promoting the product and marketing ourselves in Canada,” says DiGirolamo. “But the Americans have mostly found us. They like our product — and the exchange rate on our dollar makes us attractive.” Kym Wolfe