A Story of Entrepreneurialism and Innovation…
the History of Winkler Canvas
- 1978 - 1990
- 2014 - Present
It All Started With Identifying and Filling a Need
Winkler Canvas started in 1978 in a small shop in Reinfield, Manitoba, Canada by Dave and Eileen Dyck. As a long distance truck driver, Dave discovered that the local truck box manufactures were importing their truck tarps from the United States. With an entrepreneur spirit, he approached the manufacturer to see if they would be interested in purchasing tarps locally, if he made them available. The company agreed, so Dave pursued the venture and purchased an industrial sewing machine. He then flew to Florida to research fabric heat-sealers and from that, Dave built the first heat-sealer prototype. In less than one month the heat-sealer was operational & Winkler Canvas was formed – manufacturing and selling truck tarps.
Before long, other truck box manufactures approached Winkler Canvas to supply them with truck tarps, along with local farmers needing custom fitted tarps for their grain trucks.
Word spread about Winkler Canvas’s ability to customize fabric covers. The local market demand grew to include tarp repairs and custom fitted tarps for everything from seeder covers to motor covers.
Continual Advancement and Invention
Winkler Canvas began designing and manufacturing fabric covered structures for the hog industry. Hog farms were sprouting up everywhere and farmers were looking for an economical structure to house their animals. The fabric structure was a great fit because of its low cost and ability to naturally ventilate; creating a healthy environment for the animals. It didn’t take long before Winkler Canvas had a network of dealers in Canada and the United States selling and installing Winkler Canvas structures.
Winkler Canvas also purchased their first heavy duty sewing machine to manufacture fabric tow belts. These tow belts became preferable by many for pulling, over the alternative chain belts.
During this time, Winkler Canvas manufactured, sold and rented many styles and sizes of tents for weddings and festivals.
In collaboration with a firefighting supply company and the local fire department, Winkler Canvas began developing and testing open top water tanks, enclosed water tanks, and berms for retaining chemical spills.
In 1997, Winkler Canvas was approached by a helicopter company with a unique opportunity to design and manufacture a suspended fuel tank. The tank would be used for hauling fuel to a northern RCMP detachment construction site. This task came with challenging requirements as the berm could not turn in the wind or it would twist the cable suspending it. The containment also had to withstand the cold and needed to not twist in the wind – a tough request to meet. Winkler Canvas filled their need with a suspended 110 gallon collapsible cone, made of fuel containment material with a cold crack rating of -60 degrees Celsius.
Winkler Canvas then designed and manufactured a bladder out of the same material to hold the fuel on-site, along with a berm for the bladder to prevent an environmental disaster.
In the spring of 1997, a disastrous flood impacted many communities in Manitoba. Winkler Canvas produced over 20,000 feet of water hose which was picked up by helicopter by the Canadian military and quickly transported to the communities.
Winkler Canvas outgrew their small facility as the demand for their wide range of products steadily increased. In 2000, Winkler Canvas relocated to a 32,000 square foot facility just north of their founding plant Reinfeld.
Growth, Creativity and Diversification
With the ever growing demand for larger fabric covered structures, once again Winkler Canvas outgrew their facility once. In 2007 a 20,000 square foot expansion was added to the fabric manufacturing facility.
Recreation has always been a big part of the lives of Winkler Canvas’s customers. Winkler used their creative abilities and desire to design and manufacture camper add-a-rooms, hunting cabins, boat travel covers, personal greenhouses, ATV cabs and garage mats.
In 2009, Winkler Canvas was approached by a TV series called the Re-inventers. Working off of an old patent, Winkler Canvas “re-invented” a suitcase which opened into a life preserver, which was used on the show.
2009 Winkler Canvas became ISO 9001:2008 certified to build credibility in their diversified and expanded markets.
In 2010 Winkler Canvas had the privilege of providing 300 12’ x 12’ housing units for disaster relief in Haiti. The village that inhabited the housing units was known as Winkler, in honour of Winkler Canvas.
In 2010 Winkler Canvas outgrew their facility once again and built a 3,000 sq ft office expansion.
2010 Winkler Canvas became CAN/CSA A660-10 certified.
Always Up For a New Challenge
Collaborating with a dealer, Winkler Canvas designed a 42’ wide cattle barn complete with a ridge-vent, rollup curtains on one side and an eave on the other side to cover a feed alley. This became one of Winkler Canvas’s biggest sellers, providing over 10,000 lineal feet of cattle housing numerous years in a row.
In 2011, Winkler Canvas won the bid to design and manufacture two 132’ wide custom structures for the Calgary Airport to be used as hording while pouring concrete for a highway beneath a runway. The structure was fully customized with tapered legs to fit the trench, 40’ sidewalls and mounted rollers for mobility. This project came with its challenges, including a redesign half way through as the blasted trench was not as wide as they had expected it to be.
A New Beginning
In 2014, founder Dave Dyck retired after 36 years of building the company. Winkler Canvas was purchased by a group of employees along with investors.
2015 kicked off with an exciting undertaking of rebranding the company. This task took us through the journey Winkler Canvas has travelled, clarifying what has set the company apart in the past, and where they are heading in the future.
2017 was a busy year for the company. Winkler Canvas received its second patent for the wind turbine grout tent. Designed for the wind energy industry – the Winkler Canvas grout tent saves time and material when repairing and maintaining wind turbines.
In response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in the fall of 2017, Winkler Canvas staff donated an evening to manufacture 47 tarps for disaster relief.
Winkler Canvas entered the digital era with the launch of its online store. A small collection of standard products is now available online.