Montreal-based audio manufacturer Totem Acoustic, celebrated the company’s 35th anniversary in grand classic Quebec-Italian style on Wednesday October 19th. Invited retailers and distributors from as far away as Sweden and Belgium, the United States and of course from across Canada were greeted to a night of music, food, and celebration more reminiscent to a great house party than a corporate gathering.
Decades ago, on my first visit to meet Totem’s Vince Bruzzese (who founded Totem in 1987) and Lucy Lentini, (who has been the face of the company for 25 years), I thought I would be taking the two out to lunch where they would spend an hour listing to the merits on why Totem should add me as a branding partner. I soon learned that is not the Totem way. Visiting the Totem offices you are a guest in the Totem home; so instead of an offsite lunch hosted by me, I was invited to the company dining room/kitchen where an informal lunch of pasta, salad and wine was served on site. Conversation ranged from world events to literature to of course music – anything but business – as we unhurriedly got to know each other. I wish I could say that such family treatment was special just for me, but that Totem hospitality is the way the company treats all their guests. After so many years of visiting, the team never fails to convene at the reception for a heartfelt welcome and a thank you for visiting, and of course to offer one of Vince’s famous cappuccinos!
Totem Acoustic’s family-first approach to doing business, not only with the multi-generational family members now involved in the day-to-day running of the business that has secured the company’s succession well into the future, but he way every visitor is treated like family, is in the company’s DNA.
At the 35th anniversary party Vince’s nephew, jazz guitarist Michael Bruzzese, provided live entertainment while Vince’s mom sat nearby. Nico Bruzzese, Vince’s son who oversees purchasing and warehouse logistics, welcomed guests while his well-dressed children raced around the halls. The always glamorous Annie Lentini, Lucy’s sister who runs the administration for the company, kept the flow of caterers and servers on pace, while Lucy’s son Alexander Dufrense, who works closely with Vince in product R&D as well as adding a hand in trade-show set up, added a youthful hip air to the next generation of Totem operators.
Not surprising, among the retail royalty and distributors celebrating Totem’s 35-year milestone and who have expanded Totem to the global brand that it is today, were a gathering of extended family not in the business and long-time friends including past students from Vince’s teaching days, a solid testament acknowledging how so many have played a role in supporting the brand.
Vince Bruzzese founded Totem in 1987 leaving a career as a high school teacher behind to pursue a mission of creating loudspeakers. The company’s earliest mandate was to build speakers priced to be accessible to all, but without compromising on the brand’s philosophy and craft of using customized drivers, handmade crossovers and beautifully designed cabinets as a production mandate. 35 years on, the company is a Canadian success story synonymous with excellence.
As Totem sets their sights on their 40-year milestone, the team continues to evolve having added a sister brand called KIN to the corporate portfolio which is a line of active speakers and amplifiers designed to capture a younger market. While Totem stands for sophistication, KIN stands for youthfulness, and as witnessed at the 35th anniversary party, neither would exist without family at the core. Congratulations on a meaningful and successful milestone!