Monk Office is so much more than an office supply store—it is a locally owned and operated business across Vancouver Island with fantastic staff and a huge range of services, including interior office outfitting, copy centres, an online shop, and business machines. The newest addition is Monk Office & Art, a merging of the Monk Office you know and love and Island Blue Art & Framing, with a brand new location at 905 Fort Street. We sat down with Caitlin McKenzie, Monk Office’s President and CEO, to learn more about the business and how it became a Greater Victoria (and Vancouver Island!) staple.
What does Monk Office, and more broadly the new Monk Office & Art, provide?
“Monk Office is an office supply and office furniture business and has been around since 1951. Back in January of this year, Monk Office purchased Island Blue Art & Framing, so now we’ve merged them and currently, we’re sitting in Monk Office and Art.”
The new merged store at 905 Fort Street, Caitlin explains, has become even more of a one-stop-shop when it comes to supplies.
“In this store, we have all of the art supplies and art framing that Island Blue provides, and we’ve moved in our furniture, all of our office supplies and all of the accessories you might need for either your home office or office at work.”
Can you tell me about the history behind Monk Office and how you became involved with the business?
As Caitlin explains, she is a third-generation family owner and CEO of Monk Office.
“In 1951 Charlie Monk began Monk Office and it was for your office needs—pens, furniture, paper. Then my grandfather, Ron McKenzie, bought it from Charlie Monk and he owned it and ran it for a number of years. My father got involved in the 80s, and came in as a General Manager, and many years later bought the business from my grandfather. My grandparents retired and moved back to Spain. Then in 2016, I returned to Monk Office—I had been away for a number of years—and in 2018 I became President and CEO and began buying the business from my dad.”
Over the years, the business has grown from one store in Victoria to several stores across Vancouver Island:
“Monk Office is all over the Island. We have, I believe it is, nine stores now. We have a number of stores in Victoria, one in Sidney, and then Duncan, Courtenay, and Port Hardy.”
How do you think Monk Office positively impacts the community?
“Well I think being an employer all across the Island is a big one. We are providing jobs to community members. We are involved in our communities by way of donations or charity work. We work really hard to support other local businesses as well, and ensure that we give what we get in that regard. If there’s one thing that did come out of COVID, it was a really intense focus and awareness on the importance of supporting local—which is great to see and utterly necessary.”
What is your best memory with the business?
“I would say my best memory is very personal. I must have been six or seven—it was my birthday, and my dad took me into our Fort Street store after it closed. It was late at night. He gave me one of those shopping baskets, and he said, ‘you have two minutes to put whatever you want into this basket, and that is your birthday gift.’ It was so much fun, and I also remember thinking I had no rhyme or reason. I remember grabbing this whiteboard, and on the backside it had a chalkboard on it. And yet, I didn’t get chalk or Expo markers. Please know I have asked him if I can do that again for my birthday and he’s said absolutely not unless we limit it to like 5 seconds. So I think that that’s my very, very sweet memory.”
What’s important in the workplace culture at Monk Office? What values make up the business?
“We have a set of core values, and one of them that’s very important to me is respect for the team. At Monk Office, we have retail stores, a customer experience team, two distribution centres, a service team, a sales team—we have so many divisions and groups of team members, and each of them have to work together. So I would say that a big focus on authenticity and respect is very important to me. I like to think that’s how I lead and hopefully that passes along.”
“Whether it’s in our procurement division, our finance division, our retail division, or our warehouse division—they all need one another to succeed, and succeeding is serving our customer. Then, as soon as everybody understands that—which we do—nothing can get in our way…we hear a lot of negativity in this day and age and positivity is so important right now. We forget as we go on in our day-to-day life what is going on around us sometimes, so taking a moment to thank somebody—that means something.”
As Caitlin explains, Monk Office is a much bigger operation than some may think, so she feels grateful for their wide range of team members.
“There’s a lot going on at Monk Office. I believe we have 130 to 135 team members, so it’s pretty significant. And personally speaking, it’s a real honor that those people have chosen to work for Monk Office and represent us—be it in public at our retail stores or behind the scenes.”
What do you think makes Monk Office unique and sets it apart from the competition?
“I would like to say the team members for sure. But I would also like to say the deep foundational roots and the local ownership and leadership of Monk Office. It’s been in my family for sixty years.”
Another unique aspect of Monk Office, Caitlin explains, is the one-stop-shop nature of the business.
“In addition to the local aspect and the deep roots, I would also say the ability to come into a location, or even a commercial customer buying through us, and not just get pens and pencils and paper. You don’t just get art supplies, canvasses, and paintbrushes. You can come in and you can get it all in one-stop. Ordering it all together—your cleaning supplies, your Kleenex, your whiteboards, your desk chairs, everything. I would say those are the big two that set us apart, the longevity and the dedication of our team members, that local aspect, and then that one-stop shop aspect.”
If someone had never heard of Monk Office before, what is one thing you wish you could tell them?
“I think I’d have to go back to reiterating just how inclusive we are in our products. It’s all of the supplies you need in your life—you can find it all here! Supplies don’t just have to be office supplies, which is what it’s been in our world. We also have art supplies now, we have Christmas presents, we have local products that support entrepreneurs—a lot more than you think!”
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
“I think I’d like to say a genuine and heartfelt thank you to the communities for supporting us. It’s not often that there’s a business that lasts for over 70 years, and we have, and we will continue to survive. And we literally could not do that without people coming to us—we couldn’t do it. I cannot stress enough how grateful we all are that the customers, the communities, the people, choose Monk Office to spend their money at when they are thinking of the things that they need.”