An. Epic. Life.

Posted: April 30, 2015

Established in 2001, Epic Roofing & Exteriors Ltd. of Calgary has since grown to over 180 employees and to be ranked by PROFIT 500 as one of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies in 2013. Behind this prosperous and flourishing business, which has since spread to Lethbridge, Alberta as well, is the generous and humble CEO: Merlin Bartel. An alumni of Briercrest College, Bartel strives to be Christ-centred in both his work and play and he and his wife Sigi are a powerful example of what it means to engage the world of business while seeking the Kingdom.

Growing up as a hard-working farm boy in a Mennonite community in Rosenort, Manitoba, Merlin learned about Jesus from a young age from strong Christian parents. Even as an adolescent Merlin had a heart for service: “When I was growing up I always had a passion for ministry … feeling Christian leadership would be in my future.” This heart for ministry, desire to learn the Scriptures more deeply, and passion for competitive volleyball brought Merlin to Briercrest College, from which he eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Religious Education in Pastoral Ministry.

In 1988, Merlin and his new bride, Sigi, followed the Lord’s calling to serve back in Manitoba for five years, after which they returned to Briercrest for a season of equipping in biblical counselling and served in a variety of roles in the Briercrest community. Church ministry continued to be on the Bartel’s hearts during this time, eventually leading them to a staffing position with Calgary’s Centre Street Church.

Five years at Centre Street led to the launch Epic Group and Epic Ministries - initiatives that would help provide gainful employment for people in bi-vocational ministry in Calgary, Lethbridge, and eventually northern India. One of the businesses established under the Epic Group was Epic Roofing & Exteriors Ltd., which would give financial support to the ministry work in which the Bartel and others would engage. Many of Merlin’s first employees were from the Bartel’s faith community, thereby blurring the “lines between sacred and secular as both Epic’s (ministry and business) gained momentum.”

Merlin has led Epic Roofing with a counter-cultural vision from the very start. Having a heart for the minority and serving others, Epic currently employs 180 workers, forty of them being immigrants who need opportunities to work within a community in which they can grow. Epic gives special prominence to missions as well: “Any guy at Epic that wants to go on a missions trip, we provide him the time and money.” 

The business also embraces and celebrates family. During staff parties, when the blue-collar culture is often engrossed with drinking and profanity at work-related functions, Epic makes it a day for the whole family. “When you work with us, your kids will enjoy it,” emphasizes Merlin. At Christmas, Epic’s employees are given ‘Epic Bucks’ and they are encouraged to purchase items in support of non-profit and charitable organizations around the world. “Where most businesses give away chocolates for Christmas, my wife sources stuff out, we buy a lot of [fair trade] product and support them … that is part of how we serve.” The staff party is transformed into a festive evening that raises awareness and support for local and global needs being addressed by these organizations. Employees are encouraged to “[buy] the product because of the story,” Merlin says.

Merlin Bartel was recently recognized as the Alumnus of the Year at Briercrest College and Seminary’s commencement in April. According to the Bartels, all that they do is centred on taking risks for the Kingdom: “We want people to take risks but we need to do it ourselves,” Merlin emphasizes. There is no doubt that Epic Group is making an impact of surprising proportions in the lives of its employees, the businesses of the cities of Calgary and Lethbridge, and the world at large.