2019 IW Winners

Influential Community Trailblazer - Sault Ste. Marie

Marnie Stone

Marnie Stone

Marnie Stone thinks of herself as a “connector.”

“I’ve always been like that; even when I was in high school, I would always try to connect groups of friends,” she said. “I just always felt it was important for everyone to be included and have the same opportunities.”

It’s no surprise then that she’s a driving force behind a number of initiatives to keep the business community of Sault Ste. Marie connected.

Among them is Sault Women in Business, a group of local businesswomen that meets monthly to share stories, get advice, and seek out allies in the business world.

“It’s a really great network of women locally that are supporting each other,” Stone said.

When not helping out with that organization, Stone can be found volunteering with the Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie, or fundraising for causes like the ARCH Hospice and 100 Women Who Care.

The latter group raises funds for local charities by recruiting 100 women to each donate $100 four times a year. With its membership now swelling to 170, the organization raises upwards of $15,000 at each gathering.

“It’s a really wonderful way to help many local grassroots charities that are struggling so much,” Stone said. “Fifteen thousand dollars is like $1 million to these charities, and they’re so appreciative of the money and how it can go back into the community to help so many people.”

Stone does all this while helming Stone’s Office Plus, a local, office supply store entering its 93rd year in business.

Established in 1927 as Leask Office Equipment, Stone’s grandfather purchased the company in the 1950s, changing its name to reflect the family’s ownership. The business was then passed down through the generations – to Stone’s uncle and father, and then to her father, who later bought out her uncle’s share.

In the early 1980s, after spending a year in Ottawa studying for a general arts degree, Stone realized the world of academia wasn’t for her and returned to her hometown, joining her dad in the family business.

“Sometimes you have to step away from your day-to-day life to really realize and appreciate what it is that you have, and I think that’s exactly what happened to me,” she said. “I went away and experienced a different city, and it was great and fun and all, but I really appreciated the opportunity I had as an only child to be able to step into this very well-established business that was just so exciting.”

That the shop is nearing the century mark, while having survived the arrival of big box stores, cheap, dollar-store knockoffs, and online shopping, is a testament to the hard work put in by three generations of the Stone family and their employees.

Stone credits loyal staff, good customer service and a competitive business climate for allowing the company to flourish, despite any challenges that have come their way.

“Relationships, I think, are key in today’s business environment,” she said. “No matter what business you are in, you need to reach out to that customer, let them know that you appreciate them, let them know that they’re continuing to choose to deal with you and recognize that, and don’t take it for granted.”