The story of Greer Steel, Inc. began 61 years ago and 2,200 miles away in a garage in Fairbanks, Alaska.
At the time, Glenn Greer recognized the need in his community for consistently built, quality steel fuel storage tanks. Using a small set of plate rolls to bend the steel, Greer began making 100-, 200- and 300-gallon tanks.
In the following decades, Greer built a shop suited for welding and earned a license to build UL listed tanks. In 1972, Greer expanded to Anchorage – Alaska’s largest city – to meet a growing a demand. Still, that state’s geography and lack of roads meant Greer couldn’t reach Alaska’s southeast coastal region.
That’s when the company decided to open a location in the South Sound, where barges could originate and navigate to the regions in Alaska that were difficult to reach via land. The company started on the Tacoma Tideflats but realized it needed more space to operate.
From one-hour film development to digital cameras and lenses to cell phones, technology has revolutionized the art of capturing still images in recent decades.
But for Lakewood’s own Robi’s Camera Center, Print Labs and Custom Framing, qualities such as a camera’s price, release date or ability to post quickly to Facebook don’t define the quality of a picture.
It’s more than that – much more, actually – according to Operations Manager Tod Wolf. He has witnessed countless examples of people who, despite buying an expensive camera or lens, still produce a less-than-ideal picture.
“I do so much one-on-one coaching when they come in,” he says of frustrated customers seeking photography help. “To me, it’s mind-blowing how much difference a quick lesson in the basics can make."
For customers in the Puget Sound or Midwest who are starved for great food, beer and atmosphere, chances are the letters “R,” “A,” and “M” will beckon to their calling.
The RAM Restaurant and Brewery has more than 30 locations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Illinois and Indiana. Soon, the folks in Ohio will get a RAM of their own.
The restaurant has grown into a semi-national brand on the strength of its award-winning beer, great cuisine and 2,000-plus team members/owners who take pride in serving guests.
But for those of us in Lakewood, there’s another sense of pride - one that comes with knowing no matter how popular the RAM ultimately becomes, it all began here in our community.
“The whole thing started in Lakewood,” said Mark Patterson, who started out as a server at the Lakewood location in 1989 and today is a Regional Leader for the company. “It’s our home.”
The “History Room” of Allen Realtors’ office in Lakewood is stocked with mementos and reminders of the company’s deep roots in the South Sound.
There’s the black-and-white photo of its original location in Downtown Tacoma, where Harold Allen Sr., established the company on Oct. 1, 1940 under the banner of “Allen’s Finer Homes.” In another picture – the small Lakewood branch the company opened eight years later. Patterned among the pictures are recognitions from groups like the Washington Association of Realtors, “thank you” letters and other reminders that Allen Realtors has been in Lakewood since shortly after the end of World War II.
One face sticks out more than others in the company’s historical exhibit – that of Harold Allen Jr. After attending Stanford University, enlisting in the Navy and serving in the war, Allen Jr., joined the company in 1946 and took over management duties three years later. It was Allen Jr., who recognized the future of Lakewood and suburban Tacoma.
“Harold Allen Jr., was the face of the company for seven different decades,” explains President/Designated Broker Mike Larson, who’s also Allen Jr.’s son-in-law.
What exactly happened? Allen Realtors became one of the most successful and longest-running realty companies in the South Sound. On Oct. 1, 2015, Allen Realtors will celebrate its 75th anniversary. It has created a legacy built on its strong relationships – both with customers and the company’s employees who cater to them.
It also the reason the City of Lakewood is proud to recognize Allen Realtors – a Lakewood institution as much as its distinctive red and white signs – as the City’s Business Showcase.
The manicured grounds of Mountain View Funeral Home, Memorial Park & Crematory seemingly whisper a century’s worth of South Sound history.
The cemetery boasts some of the region’s most noted figures. From Harry L. Brown, co-founder of the Brown & Haley candy company, to Marcus Nalley, founder of the Nalley food company, and from Ben Cheney, owner of Cheney Lumber who helped standardize the 2-by-4, to Jose Calugas, one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II, individuals who shaped the region and country rest eternally among Mountain View’s sprawling grounds off Steilacoom Boulevard Southwest.
But the region’s historical celebrities mingle amongst thousands of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and friends who have come and gone.
James Richard Thompson started Mountain View Memorial Park in 1915 to “provide a service for the community that was badly needed,” according to General Manager Clarke Thomson. The first burials took place Dec. 15, 1915 – three people, to be exact.
Few people – let alone businesses – can say that they’ve laughed, cried and celebrated with an entire community for nearly half a century. In Lakewood, however, Crane’s Creations has the mementos, “Thank You” notes and pictures to prove it.
Since 1970, the family owned-and-operated business has provided countless prom-goers from Clover Park, Lakes and Steilacoom High Schools with corsages and boutonnieres. It has saved apologetic husbands and boyfriends by offering an array of bouquets for their wives and girlfriends. It has done everything it can to allow grieving families to worry about one less thing after the loss of a loved one.
As owners Bob and Roma Crane explain it, they have helped generations of Lakewood residents during their most important life moments. “Whatever they’re going through, we’re not numb to it,” Roma explains. “Sometimes we’re crying with them.”
The family business began with Bob’s parents – Marvin and Joanne Crane. Marvin was enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, and the college sweethearts had been stationed in Germany and Texas before being assigned to Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. It was there that Joanne first planted the seeds of what would become Crane’s Creations, so to speak. She became a self-taught florist, working out a deal with a florist in nearby Fairbanks to sell flowers on the base. Joanne operated one of the first flower shops in the military services at Eielson.
Lakewood Hardware and Paint has been part of Lakewood for more than 65 years, ever since Russell Fry opened the first store on Gravelly Lake Drive. The building the community frequents today is actually the store’s third incarnation.
The father of the current owner, Donn Tyler, bought Lakewood Hardware and Paint from Fry in the 1950s and later moved to a building more than twice its size on 105th Street and Bridgeport Way. In 1983, five years after purchasing his father’s share of the company, Tyler moved to its existing 12,000-square-foot spot on Lakewood Drive.
Over the years, Lakewood Hardware and Paint has continued to expand and grow. The original store sold hardware, paint and a few plumbing tools. These days, Lakewood Hardware and Paint’s selection includes home appliances, STIHL power tools, home and garden, plumbing, electricity and lumber. It even sells doors. And if customers can’t find what they need, the store will order whatever they request—and keep a stock of it in the future.
The City Manager's Weekly Info Bulletin is a roundup of news items, happenings and other items of note for the City of Lakewood.
Lakewood's recognizes strong and longstanding local businesses with its Business Showcase.