The Roots of our Company Tree
2014 marks the fiftieth year that Kristian Electric Ltd. has proudly serviced the welding and overhead crane industry. This year marks KEL’s golden anniversary, and while the company is looking forward into the future, we are also reminiscing about our past. How did it all begin? It really is quite the tale…
The founder of Kristian Electric -- Bjorn Kristian Gjertsen -- was born in Bergen, Norway in 1930. As a young man, he lived through the German occupation of Norway from 1940-1945, from which he had many incredible and alarming stories to tell. After becoming an electrician, he followed his family and immigrated to Canada in 1952, carrying only the change in his pocket. Bjorn began in commercial wiring in Alberta, eventually moving into industrial maintenance. In 1955, he married Bertha Rodvang, a woman who shared both his Norwegian heritage and exceptional work ethic, and settled down in Calgary, AB.
It wasn't long before Bjorn (who now went by Kris) began to impress his managers and co-workers with his capability and intelligence. His superiors in industrial maintenance insisted that he start his own business in the industry and he could continue on as an independent contractor.
In 1964 Kris and Bertha opened the doors to Kristian Electric Ltd.
What began as an industrial wiring and repair service in Calgary blossomed into servicing welding equipment, and eventually progressed into the manufacturing of overhead crane systems. The high demand of Kristian Electric service opened the doors for a second branch to begin serving the city of Edmonton in 1991.
Despite the pressure and responsibility of running a successful business, Kris never forgot his Norwegian roots which have always been a prominent part of the Kristian Electric brand. The red and blue of the Norwegian flag make up the colors of the company, and various logos over the past fifty years have never failed to be built upon the Norwegian identity that Kris valued. Kristian Electric has also supported a multitude of Norwegian cultural organizations over the years, such as sponsoring the Norwegian Olympic Team during the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games, as well as the annual Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival.
In addition to running a successful growing business, Kris also made his mark on the electrical community of Alberta, being a member of the Electrical Contractors Association of Alberta for over 40 years. During his time with the ECAA, he served as Calgary President, Provincial President and was a member of the board of directors.
Kris always believed in the importance of family, which is still reflected today in his choice of company motto, "A Strong Family". In the early days of the Kristian Electric, Kris and Bertha had five children, all of whom work for Kristian Electric today in various positions around the company. The Gjertsen faith in family has also spread farther down the family tree, as Kristian Electric also employs many grandchildren who are proud to be part of the legacy built by Kris.
After Kris' untimely passing in 2008, the employees of Kristian Electric – family and almost-family, still move forward with the same work ethic demonstrated by their namesake. Led by President Dean Gjertsen, and later by current President Kevin Gjertsen, the company has continued to grow and 2014 marks another year of expansion, this time past the borders of Alberta into the nearby province of Saskatchewan, opening the Saskatoon branch in May. Today, Kristian Electric is the #1 Canadian Miller Warranty and Parts Depot and the #1 Canadian Demag dealer.