Remembering Frank Kampen, who built a family appliance repair store on honesty and kindness
April 27, 1936 – April 27, 2021
Frank Kampen once hit the jackpot in a highly unlikely place – on the ceiling of a customer.
In 1974, Frank, an equipment repair technician, was on a service call for a customer whose dryer was not heating properly, so he had to check the ventilation in the ceiling. There, jammed in the bar, he found $ 30,000 – nearly $ 160,000 in today’s dollars – in forgotten cash.
What to do next wasn’t even a question.
Since the customer was not at home at the time, he returned to the house later that evening to point out the hidden money. The customer, who forgot where he’d stowed it, was delighted.
It wasn’t the first or last time Frank went above and beyond for a customer. He regularly drove an elderly Toronto customer to see her husband, who had Alzheimer’s disease and lived in a house in Guelph. Despite the demands of work and the small children, Frank drove the customer until her husband died.
Those who knew the founder and former CEO of Kampen Appliance Service know that these were just two of the many times Frank showed his signature honesty, friendliness, and friendship, said Frank’s son Andrew Kampen. current President and CEO of Kampen Appliance Service.
Despite being retired for more than 20 years, Frank’s reputation lived on among his loyal customers and his principles guide the following two generations who run the now Woodbridge-based company that Frank built.
Frank was born in 1936 and was the fifth of the eight children of Uiltje and Willemke (née Dijkstra) Kampen. The close-knit family, who owned a grocery store in Holland, emigrated to Canada in 1951 and settled in Chatham, Ontario when Frank was 15 years old. While Uiltje worked in a leather factory, Willemke stayed at home with the children.
Frank graduated from 10th grade in Holland but did not return to college after arriving in Canada despite having a natural aptitude for math, said son Anthony Kampen.
In May 1955, Frank moved to Toronto in search of better job opportunities. At 19, he met his first wife, Diane Bouwkamp. They were married on August 1, 1959 at the Bethel Canadian Reformed Church in Thornhill. Children soon followed: Theresa 1960; Andreas, 1961; Fred, 1963; Irene, 1968; and Anthony, 1971. As a father, Frank was strict and religious and loving and kind at the same time, Andrew said.
Frank has worked with appliances all his life and was employed as a repair technician at the Sarnia Appliance Company in 1955 and at Doyle Electric in 1962, and then as a delivery driver at Caplan Young Ltd in 1958.
“He wanted more independence and stability to support his growing family,” said Andrew. “Frank realized that there was a market for reliable and honest repairs. He wanted to change the way service was done. “
The Kampen Appliance Service opened its doors in September 1968. Frank was the only employee to use a remote inquiry service that took calls during the day and picked them up the next day.
The company’s first two locations were humble, run by the family home on Woodward Avenue in Thornhill and later on Regent Street in Richmond Hill. To Frank’s delight, Andrew joined the company in 1980, followed by the second son, Fred.
“The family worked very well together. In all these years there has never been a crossword puzzle, ”said Andrew. “He was a great mentor. He practiced what he preached and taught me to do the same. Always do the right thing. “
A few years after Diane’s death in 1982, Frank met Jenny de Leeuw while attending church in BC. “From the moment Frank saw the beautiful Jenny – a nurse – he knew that they would be together,” said his grandson Brandon Kampen, the company’s managing director. The couple married in February 1985 when Jenny entered the business.
Brandon remembers his grandpa as loving, happy, cheerful and kind, who was delighted that his grandchildren had his hair fixed with the comb he always kept in his breast pocket.
His grandson Trevor Kampen recalls a joyful moment on a family camping trip at Grundy Lake, where Frank found a children’s bike and rode it around the property. “It was very nice to see Grandpa happy and with a full heart,” said Trevor.
It was only after Frank retired in 2000 that Andrew and Fred, now at the helm, moved the company to the Concord division. The 1,700-square-foot building had a front office and modest warehouse, but the company continued to grow. Over the years Kampen Appliance Service has upgraded buildings in Vaughan twice more before moving to its current location on Caster Avenue in Woodbridge.
Over the years, Frank has never deviated from the personality and vision he created for the company, said Andrew.
“All of his customers knew they could trust him,” said Fred. “Many would book a service call, tell him where the house key is and leave a signed check on the counter.”
These customers often became friends. “He had customers booked at lunchtime so he could sit down for a nice lunch and chat,” said Brandon.
His ultimate goal is to leave a legacy that his children could carry on, Andrew said. And he succeeded – 53 years after the boy founded a company with a 10th grade, Kampen Appliance Service has more than 30 employees, most of them for many years. The service technician and 20-year-old company veteran Jim Macdonald put it this way: “He gave people a sense of belonging.”
Frank died on April 27, his 85th birthday, of complications from cancer at Hill House Hospice in Richmond Hill, with Jenny by his side. His children were with him until early evening.
Frank is survived by his wife; Brothers Ebbel, Martin, Rudy, Hank and Leo and their spouses; his children Theresa, Andrew, Fred, Irene, and Anthony and their spouses; 22 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
Frank will be remembered as a humble, hardworking, honest, caring, loyal and loyal father, husband and grandfather, Brandon said. “He always put others before himself.”