He’s old school Squamish, and proud of it.
He’s also not the sign-on-the-door, sit-behind-a-desk kind of boss or business owner.
Darren Doak, who owns JR Transport Ltd, can most often be found in one of his company trucks, which is where The Chief caught up with him for a chat about running a business in town for more than 25 years, and how he feels about the Squamish that has changed around him.
What follows is an edited version of that conversation.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about your history in Squamish?
A: I was one year old when we moved here from Tahsis in 1967. My dad worked at the local sawmill, where the Waterfront Landing is now.
I went to school kindergarten to Grade 12. Then I went to BCIT in 1985, for a year. I wanted to be a machinist. After 10 months, I came back to Squamish.
Q: When and how did you start with JR Transport?
A: A guy by the name of Jack Rempel — that is where the “JR” comes from in JR Transport Ltd — he asked my dad to ask me if I wanted to come down and do some work on a logging truck that night at his shop.
I had a hot rod and was 20 years old and still lived with my parents. I was planning that night to work on my car and then head to Brohm Lake and when my dad came out and asked me, I said, ‘No, I don’t think so, Dad.’
My dad turned around to go in the house and said, “Hey, Darren, when you get back from the lake, pack up your [stuff]. You are moving out. No job, no live here. You aren’t in school anymore.”
I went to work for Jack Rempel that night in June of 1986 as a mechanic’s helper. They put me through school.
I bought him out in 1994 — he loaned me what I couldn’t finance — and I am still here.
I have never had another job. This has been my only job since I got out of high school.
Jack is retired and lives in Vernon now.
Q: That is an amazing story. For people who don’t know, tell me what JR Transport does as a company?
A: We are a log hauling operation. Over all these years I have hauled thousands of loads out of the Elaho Valley. We are strictly a log hauling company.
For a while, I transformed a bit to hauling gravel and stuff like that, but now 100 per cent into hauling and loading logs.
Q: How many trucks do you have?
A: We fluctuate. Trying to find good drivers who can afford to move and live in Squamish is tough.
When I first took over, we had six trucks. Then I ended up with 12 trucks. Now we are at five trucks.
We always hover at around half a dozen trucks.
Q: The forest industry has gone up and down over the years. How have you been able to ride it out and survive?
A: One, we have a good name. The employees I have now are great drivers. I invest in good equipment. It takes a lot of hard work — sometimes working through the night to get the trucks ready.
One of the reasons I went into hauling gravel was because of the downturn in logging at the time. We also had to leave town quite a bit to haul through the winters.
In my day, in the 1980s and 90s, there were as many logging trucks in town as there were cars, it seemed.
Q: You have seen a lot of changes, what are some of the things that stand out for you?
A: It is not as small a community anymore. When I lived here, as a kid there wasn’t even a set of lights. The first lights were when McDonald’s went in.
The changes have been miraculous. We always had the Whistler traffic, the winter traffic.
It is far from the sense of community it used to have, other than among my own local friends.
Q: What about the future of your company? Any changes planned?
A: I don’t have any plans to change anything. We are going to maintain. I am over here on Loggers Lane — kind of fitting for logging trucks — we are comfortable. We are going to keep doing what we do.
Editor’s note: About a local is a regular column that highlights Squamish residents with an interesting backstory. If you have an idea for someone who could be featured in an upcoming column, write to email@example.com.