Viable businesses are built, not born.
However, as with children, growing pains don’t destroy them but rather add to their size and maturity. One of Timnath’s longest standing companies accurately meets that analogy.
In 1968, 31-year-old Dick Chinn founded Alpine Cabinet. Armed with a Colorado State University degree in construction management, he first paid a few dues working in a California lumber yard, a Loveland, cabinet factory, and for Stel Lumber Company in Fort Collins.
Chinn used sales skills honed at Stel to convince the City of Fort Collins that ready-built cabinetry was a better investment of taxpayer dollars than were job site-built ones. That coup and one employee were the foundation of today’s thriving business. Hiring qualified employees, however, was initially a big hurdle for a small company unable to match perks offered by larger competitors.
Chinn and wife Ellie (who still does the payroll) located their fledgling business in the building that once housed Giddings Manufacturing, makers of Timnath’s famous Giddings beet puller. Alpine also expanded into surrounding structures. A devastating 1995 fire not only destroyed the complex but put Alpine out-of-business for nine months.
Chinn recalled that the biggest post-fire challenge was overcoming government regulations. City, county, state, Environmental Protection Agency, fire department and electrical inspectors were not only each on a different page, but in entirely different books.
“Everyone with a badge was out here,” he said.
Once Chinn met every entity’s requirements, a new 35,000 square foot building (approximately the same size as the previous ones combined) was erected. Alpine Cabinet’s doors re-opened.
Today a highly successful company of 50-60 employees produces kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities and, occasionally, bedroom furniture for hotels, motels and apartments. All products are built to-order from quality woods such as oak, cherry, maple, hickory and alder. Doors are available in more than 100 styles and sometimes incorporate melamine as well. Employee benefits now include health insurance, paid vacations and a pension plan.
Walking down memory lane, Chinn remembered Timnath’s “olden days,” an era during which his employees plowed streets and shoveled snow for neighbors.
“It was a great little town then,” he reminisced.
Several years ago at Christmastime, his company built more than 100 dollhouses and 50 barns distributed as giveaways to needy children through Project Self-Sufficiency, Toys For Tots and other organizations. The project was intended to benefit not only the recipient kids but also to keep the people who constructed the little buildings on Alpine’s payroll during a badly stalled economy. The miniatures were so unique and appreciated that they were featured by Katie Couric on her television news program and in the Denver Post.
Chinn credits several factors for his company’s ongoing success.
“We sell the best cabinets for the money. We sell direct with no middleman,” he said. “And, we still answer the telephone!”
Chinn told Timnath News his company’s human factor highlights Alpine’s corporate mentality from production through installation.
“Anybody can build a cabinet, but the service we provide is exceptional.”
Alpine Cabinet remains a family-run business primarily owned by Dick’s sons, Scott, who manages sales, and Bill, who rides herd on production. Their proud father, now 77, is happy that Scott’s sons Mathew and Mitchell also work with Alpine. Their choice to do so should keep the company in family hands and its doors, as well as its cabinet doors, open for many years to come.