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These centenarians still alive | The whole family in the bath



Quebec has many small businesses more than a century old, long or still owned by the descendants of the founder. This holiday season, we tell three of these family stories.
Today: Groupe Charbonneau, 105 years old.

Lucien Charbonneau has long had more children than employees. The former provided him with most of the latter.

He founded his small business in 1917 and his family three years later when he married Robertine Lacombe.

“At the beginning, it was boilermaking, and quickly, it became a plumber’s business,” says his grandson Jean Charbonneau, president of Groupe Charbonneau.

Lucien had opened his modest plumbing in his neighborhood, Côte-Saint-Paul, where his rigorous work soon earned him an advantageous reputation.


Lucien Charbonneau and his eldest daughter, Lucienne, in front of the original plumbing

Too rigorous work, perhaps. Lucien died at the age of 49 of a heart attack on January 25, 1945, while responding in extreme cold to a call for service in the area he had served for more than 25 years.

Fifty-year-old Robertine took matters into her own hands.

“There weren’t many women in the plumbing industry in those years,” says Jean Charbonneau. My father said to me: “Your grandmother had no choice, she had 11 mouths to feed.” »


Claude Charbonneau, Jean’s father, current president of the company

Five of these mouths were already attached to the family business. Jean-Paul, Denis, Claude, Robert and Germain, all plumbers.

“They were of working age, 16, 17, 18. The oldest was in his twenties, I believe, ”continues the president.

“My grandmother was in charge. She did the dispatching of service calls, she was the one who managed the office. His guys worked on the plumbing. »


Robertine, center top row, with her five boys and six girls

Robertine gradually entrusted them with the management of the company, which they successively occupied until the mid-1960s.

At their instigation, the company widened its field of action beyond the neighborhood of origin. Lucien Charbonneau ltée installs drains on the elevated tracks of Metropolitan Boulevard under construction, works on the Turcot interchange, installs the plumbing and heating of several Expo 67 pavilions.

  • Lucien Charbonneau, as the company was called at the time, worked on the construction site of the Turcot interchange in the mid-1960s.


    Lucien Charbonneau, as the company was called at the time, worked on the construction site of the Turcot interchange in the mid-1960s.

  • Jean-Paul Charbonneau, Jean's uncle and manager of the company for several years, probably on the Turcot interchange site


    Jean-Paul Charbonneau, Jean’s uncle and manager of the company for several years, probably on the Turcot interchange site


“They had good years, continues Jean Charbonneau. When Montreal developed, they were part of this development. »

Robertine died in 1971. “I have a memory of her, but nothing very specific,” he confides. In the last few years, she was very ill. »

In the early 1980s, the company was run by Lucien’s three still active sons, Denis, Jean-Paul and Claude.

The third generation then knocks on the door.

The letter

The only son of Claude’s four children, Jean Charbonneau, had begun college studies in administration at the end of the 1970s.

“After a year, I realized that administration was not for me. I went to do a DEC in building mechanics at Cégep de Saint-Hyacinthe. »

He had been working for a year for a consulting engineering firm when the son of his uncle Denis, his cousin Daniel, who had already joined the family business a year ago, invited him to dinner.

“He said to me: ‘Listen, you have to come with me, we have to bring this up, this businessthere, we are capable.” »


Jean and Daniel in the offices on Hadley Street, a few years after taking over from their fathers

Plunged into the bath by his cousin, he decided to go for it.

“I sent a letter to my father to tell him that I was starting in two weeks in the company. »

The two cousins ​​at the helm

His father, “someone very patient and very determined”, had never pushed for the family plumbing.

” He was happy. I think a dad is proud that his guy is interested and coming into the business to continue it. But we never say: “I would like you to come”, because at the end of the day, we must give our child the choice to decide. »

John will apply the precept to his own son.

Our respective fathers, my cousin Daniel and I, gave us the opportunity to grow, to grow the business, and to take it to another level. It is an exceptional gift. Even though it was very small, Charbonneau was a household name when we took it.

Jean Charbonneau, President of Groupe Charbonneau

Plumbing had a bit of trouble when the two cousins ​​acquired the business from their respective fathers in 1991. Lucien Charbonneau was then showing sales of approximately $900,000 and had barely a fifteen employees.

“We injected a little adrenaline into the company,” says Jean Charbonneau. Our fathers were all the same of a certain age. It was normal for them to want to run fewer risks. When we arrived, we opened the floodgates. A natural gesture, in plumbing.

“We went into what we knew, the institutional and the commercial. »

Once the valves opened, the two cousins ​​extended the circuit by multiplying the connections. In 2001, they acquired L’Heureux Mongeau JC Lauzon, which specializes in natural gas, then Plomberie Christie in 2004, which served downtown towers.

At the same time, they began to involve some key employees in the company.

At the time of Jean’s father’s death, in the early 2010s, “the company was making nearly forty million, approximately”.

In 2017, Groupe Charbonneau “positioned itself on the North Shore” with the acquisition of Plomberie Daniel Côté, in Laval.

The fourth generation then showed up.


Jean’s son, David, has not written or texted him to announce his imminent arrival. “No, he was a bit more destined to come to us. »

Like his father, David had worked as an apprentice plumber in the family business before undertaking a DEC in building mechanics in Saint-Hyacinthe. He then made known his interest in joining him.

“I said to him: ‘David, your DEC in building mechanics is great, but my associates are engineers. You will have to go a little further than a DEC.” He replied that he knew it and that he was going to get his engineering course. »

Apart from this pipe, no pressure.

“If my boy didn’t come to the company, it didn’t matter. I already had my partners, I had already prepared my succession. When David entered the business, it was because he wanted to, not because he had an obligation to be the fourth generation in a family business. »

David has been a project manager at Charbonneau since 2015.

“He is part of the plans to lead the company one day, but will he be the next? I do not believe. Because there are still people who have been with us for several years as associates. But one day, David is going to take over the business, that’s for sure. »


Team photo during the move into the new offices on Cabot Street, in the early 2000s

New era

Jean Charbonneau, who said that administration was not for him, has chaired the company since 2018, following his cousin.

The small plumbing founded by Lucien Charbonneau now has some 330 employees, with a business volume that teases 100 million.

“We do everything, from a quick service call to install a sink to a job 30 million for plumbing,” he describes with a pride that is perhaps more attached to the sink.

“You have to look at where you come from,” he said. Experience has shown us that there will always be a high volume in the service, it almost never changes from year to year. »

He also watches where he is going. 1er Last December, the Charbonneau Group announced an investment of $8 million from the Fonds de solidarité FTQ “to [sa] growth and [ses] acquisition”.

Latest outlet for old plumbing: Charbonneau has just expanded its activities to ventilation services with the acquisition, effective 1er January 2023, from Nouvel-Air Air Conditioning.

A new era, indeed.

But still family.

The company: Groupe Charbonneau

Speciality : residential, commercial and industrial plumbing, building mechanics
Foundation : 1917
Age : 105 years

Some milestones


Lucien Charbonneau is opening a small neighborhood plumbing store in the Côte-Saint-Paul district.


Death of Lucien Charbonneau at 49. His wife Robertine takes over the business. Her sons Jean-Paul, Denis, Claude, Robert and Germain, all plumbers, work with her.


Death of Robertine. The management falls to his son Jean-Paul.

nineteen eighty one

The business is run by Lucien’s three active sons, Denis, Jean-Paul and Claude. Daniel, son of Denis, joins the company. Jean, son of Claude, follows him the following year.


Cousins ​​Daniel and Jean acquire their fathers’ shares and are the sole shareholders.

Daniel is president.


The Lucien Charbonneau division and Plomberie Charbonneau form Le Groupe Charbonneau.


Acquisition of L’Heureux Mongeau JC Lauzon, specializing in natural gas.


Acquisition of Christie Plumbing.


Acquisition of Plomberie Daniel Côté, in Laval.


Jean succeeds Daniel as President.


Announcement of a majority stake in Climatisation Nouvel-Air, effective 1er January 2023.

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