Last September I reached out to Bob McJannett, one of Canada’s pioneering performance business owners. I had called to see if he wanted to come onto The Great Canadian Aftermarket Podcast, maybe with his sons, Rob and Andy, to talk about the changing face of the performance industry.
We talked for quite a while about the genesis of the now-iconic Performance Improvements business and touched on lots of interesting stories. All the while I kept trying to tell Bob to save it for the show.
Unfortunately, we were never able to reconnect to record the podcast, and now the opportunity is gone. Bob McJannett, icon of Canada’s performance business, one of only two Canadians in the SEMA Hall of Fame, passed away this month. He was 82.
His journey with Performance Improvements started simply, he told me. He was working on hot-rodding a 1940s Volvo, went to a local Toronto speed shop and had such a poor, insulting experience – if memory serves he was trying to buy some wheel covers – that he and his then girlfriend Susan decided he could do better. And, in perhaps what must have been the best sales job ever, he convinced her to give him the money to start Performance Improvements. A whopping $1,500 but then again it was 1964 so that money would have gone a lot further back then.
Together they opened a small shop on The Queensway in Toronto, operating part-time initially, but with a strong customer service focus it wasn’t too long before it was a success and grew, opening multiple branches and a wholesale division that was eventually sold to Keystone Automotive Operations some years back.
Today Performance Improvements operates its main superstore and warehouse in Toronto, branches in Hamilton and Barrie, and sells to customers across Canada through it’s online store.
Bob and Susan’s sons Rob and Andy McJannett at the helm now, so the legacy that started in 1964 continues.
There’s a wonderful picture of a smiling Susan McJannett out front of that first store in her 1958 Pontiac Parisienne two-door hardtop. She passed way in 2018, but was still very much in Bob’s thought’s when I spoke to him last fall.
And, Bob told me, that his most recent hobby was looking up old friends and acquaintances. He enjoyed the detective work, reaching to some who he hadn’t connected with for years, just to say hello, catch up, and reminisce a bit.
Bob was definitely a pioneer, but also a gentleman, conscientious business owner, and all round decent human being. He will be missed.
Instead of a formal service, the family says they plan to host a party this summer to celebrate his life.
In place of flowers, donations can be made to one of his favourite charities, www.barthsyndrome.ca.