From A Humble Beginning
By Dave Perlowski
Sitting nearly equidistant in the middle of Montreal to its west, Quebec to the north, Maine to the east and Vermont to the south, there is a one hundred forty-four square foot workshop that incubated Michel Ouellet’s passion to create what would become among the finest conga drums in the world.
In the early 1980’s the population of St. Adrien, QC.CN. was likely considerably less than its recent census tally of 350 people. No Internet, and certainly, no conga players within many miles. Just a guy tinkering in his shop trying to figure out how to make staves so they would fit tightly together, forge steel for hardware and stretch skins to create a pure sounding instrument. Once the processes were perfected after much trial-and-error, however, and word got out about the incredible quality of Michel’s work, the MOPERC brand was born.
Lacking any of our now-accepted means of reaching large numbers of customers (Internet was not given public domain until 1993), the MOPERC company slowly grew in the best way possible: by word of mouth. That first conga player who played one of Michel's drums in Montreal told his friends, who told their friends, who told their friends, etc. and quickly, Michel's business outgrew the 12 x 12 workshop, leading him to pay a visit to Jay Bereck, owner of Skin On Skin drums in NYC to gain ideas about how he might expand and by the early 2000’s Michelle increased his production space to 1500 sq ft.
With the added capacity, Michel sought opportunities to sell his product through retail music stores and the move certainly grew the business but also proved to be taxing, causing Michel to sell a portion of it to a friend. Sometimes friends can be good business partners and other times the situation becomes a teaching experience. This was one of those times and Michel took the entire business back in 2010.
The new 1500 square-foot shop was light years ahead of the original shed in which Michel began his business, but it was by no means perfect. Production departments were separated by stairways. Metalworking was conducted in the middle of the wood processing area. There was hardly room to store wood inventory and the assembly department was minuscule. It was definitely not Henry Ford’s idea of an efficient assembly line, yet thousands of ultra-high-quality drums were produced there.
By 2019, after Francis Mercier had owned the company for a year and a half, demand for MOPERC drums was exceeding the shop’s capacity to produce them. Where Michel’s expansion was limited to word-of-mouth, Francis fully embraced the power of the Internet and he began to grow the business exponentially. As the company’s good reputation spread quickly through its prominent presence on Facebook and YouTube the 1500 square-foot shop became small and dysfunctional with its limited production and storage space.
Upon setting his sights toward expansion, Francis discovered the 6000 square-foot building that is now the current home for MOPERC drums and he has made his dreams reality. With the ability to create separate production departments (wood, metal, paint, packing, shipping, etc.), and by sourcing most materials within 45 minutes of the shop, Francis has streamlined the entire operation.
Wood can now be purchased and stored in large quantities and entire piles of it can be moved by means of a pallet jack rather than a single slab at a time by hand. Large quantities of staves are transported from one machine to another by means of a dolly. State of the art high speed lathes improve accuracy and reduce the time it takes to form shells, and a newly installed booth provides a safe and efficient place for painting, and the entire area can handle at least three employees, the heart of the operation, working together.
But that’s just a small part of Francis’ dream. Because his first career path was in sound production, he made it a priority to install a high-level studio where guest artists can record and produce audio and video presentations. It is also a facility where Francis can record side-by-side comparisons of drums and wood and skin types as well as do Live shows on social media (where's Picadillo Thursday ?!!?)
And finally, there is even the possibility to book a Zoom meeting with Francis if you want to chat with him, see and listen to some Moperc drums with HD sound and image within the comfort of your house.
Francis has done a lot with a place since purchasing the business in 2018 and who knows where it is headed? Yet, with his extraordinary organizational skills and a burning desire to grow the MOPERC family ever larger it’s a pretty good bet that an expanded shop is lurking in the near future.