Business Showcase: Pacific Machine, Inc.
Tucked behind a commercial strip along South Tacoma Way in Lakewood sits a nondescript 20,000 square foot building.
Looking at the industrious gray façade at 8601 38th Ave SW, the average person would be hard-pressed to know what goes on behind the roll-up doors of Pacific Machine, Inc.
“What we do is pretty unique,” said owner Jim Tschimperle. “We’re a machine shop, but a lot of people don’t understand what that is.”
So, what is it?
Founded in 1912 Pacific Machine, Inc. does a little bit of everything, Tschimperle said. That includes machining, fabrication, manufacturing and repair work.
Industries served include: foundry, heavy equipment, wood working, food production, paper goods, marine, road construction and plastics.
Inside the industrial space large equipment whirs and rumbles. In one area employees are modifying a product made in Japan to increase its productivity for one of Pacific Machine’s customers. The minor tweak increased
production by 70 percent, Tschimperle said.
“They presented us with a problem, we solved their problem and went from there,” he said.
Troubleshooting is just one of the many skills Pacific Machine brings to the table. It also has the necessary large-scale equipment to take on just about any job.
Its versatility is one reason why its clients span the globe. Four of its biggest customers are internationally owned and its client list includes companies like Dairy Queen, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Toray Composite Materials American located in Frederickson.
“It’s amazing what we do. It makes it really interesting,” Tschimperle said.
When asked to create an awning for an aerospace company Tschimperle was hardly fazed when the company requested the awning replicate airplane wings.
“We do whatever people ask us to do,” he said.
In 2014 Pacific Machine, Inc. was named the emerging small manufacturer of the year by Seattle Magazine. In 2017 the facility served as the backdrop for a visit from Gov. Jay Inslee who was there to mark the first Youth Apprentice Signing Day for the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee’s Production Technician program.
That event was significant to Tschimperle, who has operated a four-year apprenticeship program from his company for 16 years. His focus is to develop and train the next generation of workers.
Much like the work his company does – Tschimperle created the program as a solution to a problem he faced: finding employees with the skills and expertise who were trained to do the level of work his company required.
“It’s a huge investment,” Tschimperle said. “We are looking for a long-term commitment from these employees.”
It’s because of its commitment to educating and training the next generation of workers and its diverse customer base to include international companies that the Lakewood City Council recognizes Pacific Machine, Inc. as its May 2018 Business Showcase.
Business Showcase: Tacoma Trophy
At the start of every year Tacoma Trophy owners Judi and DJ Brown sit down to discuss their business goals.
“Goal number 1 is to give people a job every year,” DJ said. “We’re at 10 now.”
One day DJ would like to see that number at or near 50.
“I want to be able to give a lot of people jobs,” he said. “Two people here are bread winners for their families. That means a lot to me.”
Looking back at the beginnings of Tacoma Trophy – the couple started the business in their Mill Creek home in Snohomish County – Judi said she never imagined 12 years later they’d have a sizeable brick and mortar store offering everything from engraving to creating one-of-a-kind keepsakes.
“What’s exciting about this business is there is always something new,” Judi said.
The couple began their company – originally called Getting Personal Imprinting – in their home with a foil imprinter. That allowed them to make foil imprinted napkins, business cards, lettering on ribbons and other paper-based items.
The imprinter is still upstairs in their building, but it’s now joined by two laser engravers, a Diamond Drag engraver, three brand new pieces of equipment that the couple will bring online soon, and several other pieces of equipment they use to create custom awards and gifts.
Whether it’s the youth sports team looking to hand out recognition at the end of the season, or people requesting Fantasy Football trophies to rub their winning season in their friends’ faces, Tacoma Trophy has somet
hing for everyone.
A walk through the store shows just how far the Browns have come since those early days of customizing paper products in their spare room.
The walls of Tacoma Trophy are adorned with personalized plaques, photos engraved on wood and shadow boxes ready to display American flags and military awards for services.
Trophies of all shapes, sizes and colors sit stacked on shelving units throughout the store. Customized coins fill displays and glass engraved awards glint in sunlight streaming through the window.
Look around and it is evident Tacoma Trophy has a strong tie to the military. Judi estimates 70 percent of their business comes from nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
In fact, that’s why the couple moved from Snohomish County to Lakewood in 2007 – to be closer to the base.
“We knew going into business that the military was going to be a focus of ours,” Judi said.
DJ served in the Navy for 20 years, retiring as a Chief Petty Officer in 2006. He spent 14 of the 20 years as a recruiter. His ties to the Navy are easily identifiable at Tacoma Trophy – the logo and shirts are navy blue and gold – and DJ likes to rib his Army customers about the friendly rivalry between their respective branches of the military.
“It’s really fun to mess with them,” DJ said. “I’ve grown to love the Army a lot. It’s not just business, it’s more personal.”
The pride he has in the personalized pieces he creates for his military customers is evident as DJ shows various engraved and customized display pieces around his shop. He enjoys when people come in with an idea of what they want and he can make their vision a reality.
“Some of the projects people bring us, it truly is an honor to do them,” Judi said. “It’s fun to be able to celebrate with people.”
Because of its one-of-a-kind pieces, its commitment to the military and its dedication to providing living-wage jobs in Lakewood the Lakewood City Council recognizes Tacoma Trophy as its April 2018 Business Showcase.
Business Showcase: Northwest Abatement Services, Inc.
The first piece of equipment Mark Stephens bought for his then-startup abatement company still sits in the parking lot of Northwest Abatement Services, Inc.
The 1991 GMC Topkick has since been replaced with newer trucks, but Stephens admits he’s not ready to part with it.
“It’s where it all started,” he said recently from his office located at 9822 32nd Ave. S. off 96th Street between South Tacoma Way and Interstate 5.
While the truck is no longer active in the fleet, it’s a reminder of how far the company has come since Stephens co-founded Northwest Abatement Services, Inc. in 1994.
“I don’t know if we ever thought we’d get to where we are today,” he said. “I was just trying to survive.”
Northwest Abatement Services, Inc. was born out of a failed purchase of another company where Stephens worked as a general manager at the time. The owners were looking to sell and Stephens and his partner knew the opportunity was too good to pass up.
While the purchase didn’t materialize, the process laid the foundation for Northwest Abatement Services, Inc. to get off the ground.
Stephens and his partner cashed in their savings and went all in, buying new equipment and using their local connections to land jobs.
The company has come a long way since its first gig removing the popcorn ceilings at the Days Inn in Lakewood.
From the beginning Stephens said he knew he wanted to do more than asbestos removal and environmental work.
Through perseverance the company has expanded its divisions to include:
- Indoor air quality services (air duct cleaning)
- Fire and water restoration services
- Container division
- Establishment of Stetz Construction
The development of these in-house services enables the company to be self-sustaining – one of Stephens’ goals – while also offering more for its clients.
“Honestly we’re everywhere,” Stephens said.
The company does work for private and public entities, including working with the City of Lakewood on some of its Dangerous Building Abatement Program properties. In 2017 the company worked with the city and owner of the Golden Lion motel to demolish the abandoned buildings off South Tacoma Way. It was the end of an era, and of a property that had become an eyesore in recent years.
Northwest Abatement Services Inc. has also done work for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Clover Park School District, Amazon and Boeing, to name a few clients.
And while it expanded its offerings and landed large-scale projects in the public and private sectors, Stephens has been deliberate about expanding the number of employees at the company.
He maintains 40 to 45 employees at any given time with a goal to keep his total employee count below 50.
“We’re still a small business and we pride ourselves on that,” he said. “We have a good culture and a good group of employees.”
Drawing the right personnel is something that has “organically developed” over time, Stephens said.
So too has the company’s wherewithal to give back to the Lakewood community.
Some of its giving includes cleaning up community properties free of charge and building the Peace Garden at Park Lodge Elementary School through the donation of labor and materials to create an area for Lakewood children to go outside and learn while at school.
It also assisted West Pierce Fire & Rescue with its 9/11 Memorial, donating volunteer labor, equipment and hauling.
But one of the most unusual volunteer requests of the company came from Lakewood Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Mary Dodsworth who asked Stephens to make a special trip to Snoqualmie Pass to load up one of his dump trucks with snow. The truck was to be unloaded at Fort Steilacoom Park for an event for kids.
With a request like that, how could he say no?
“It makes you feel good to give back to the community,” Stephens said.
Because of its commitment to the environment, air quality and partnerships with government and business for a better future and its more than two decades of service to the area, the Lakewood City Council recognizes Northwest Abatement Services, Inc. as its February 2018 Business Showcase.
Business Showcase: Lakewood Appliance
Founded in 1958 by the Vatter family, Lakewood Appliance was set to shutter its doors last summer when owner Ron Vatter decided it was finally time to retire. He had run the business for 40 years, after taking over from his father.
That’s when three of the long-time employees stepped in. Looking to carry on the business, they teamed up and approached Vatter to see if he would sell the store as opposed to closing its doors. He was open to the idea, so the existing management team contacted Ted Warner and his partner, both longtime Lakewood residents, to set up a meeting.
It didn’t take long for both parties to agree on the terms. By August 2017 Lakewood Appliance was under new ownership and nine of its existing employees were conducting business as usual without missing a beat.
Lakewood Appliance has the advantage over big box stores because of its in-house service and parts department and mobile service technicians, said co-owner Warner.
“That’s almost like a dying breed out there,” he said, noting the full-service shop is a rarity in today’s changing landscape of appliance retailers.
Often Lakewood Appliance can get a product to its customer same-day, even if that means Warner has to deliver it himself because staff is booked with previous appointments.
“We’re very hands-on owners,” he said. “We will do whatever it takes to meet the customer’s needs.”
It’s this attention to customer satisfaction and meeting clients’ needs that sets Lakewood Appliance apart from the competition.
“We have a lot of loyal customers,” Warner said. “They want to support a local business, we are very proud of that.”
Lakewood Appliance employs nine people, some who have worked there 20 and 30 years. Others have been there nearly a decade. This loyalty to the company and its customers is another reason why Warner and his partner opted to buy Lakewood Appliance – they didn’t want to see the employees lose their jobs.
As new owners, the duo hasn’t made too many changes to the company since taking over. The biggest change so far has been the new location – previously the business was located off Steilacoom Boulevard. It is now located at 6111 100th Street SW Suite B as the former location was sold upon Vatter’s retirement.
Along with the physical move, the company also moved into the digital age, migrating its sales, service, purchasing and inventory control to various software solutions.
“This not only makes our company more efficient, it also allows us to be more responsive to our customers,” Warner said.
Warner, who retired in May 2017 from L’Oréal Paris where he worked for 34 years as a national account representative, said the transition from selling makeup, hair, skin products and fragrances has been exciting and rewarding.
As the longtime resident notes, sales is less about the product and more about meeting the customer’s needs.
And that’s exactly what Lakewood Appliance does best.
It is because of its dedication to customer service, its commitment to its longtime employees and its connection to the community that the Lakewood City Council recognizes Lakewood Appliance as its March 2018 Business Showcase.
Business Showcase: Ed Selden Carpet One
Don’t let the word “carpet” in “Ed Selden Carpet One” fool you, there’s more to this family-owned business than its large carpet selection.
Palates of hardwood, tile, laminate and vinyl are displayed throughout the showroom at 3901 Steilacoom Boulevard SW just off South Tacoma Way.
And the choices don’t stop with flooring.
Hunter Douglas window coverings greet customers as they walk through the doors and not far away an array of countertop selections is waiting to be mulled over by homeowners looking to remodel their kitchens and bathrooms.
Head to the tile section and find a column transformed into a mock shower, showcasing various sizes of tile and how it can be laid. Below the shower small stones are laid for people to take off their shoes and experience what this flooring would feel like in their home.
It’s little touches like these that separate Ed Selden Carpet One from its competitors.
Touching the faux shower floor with her foot, owner Gayle Selden noted her father built the shower so his customers could not only visualize what the finished product would look like, but also feel it.
It’s this connection with customers that have kept the predominately flooring company in business since its doors opened in 1959.
Founded by Ed Selden, the Selden family has made the company a household name while also surviving three recessions and two fires that gutted the business.
“We have been lucky, this industry has not been easy in tough times,” said Gayle Selden.
Ask her the no. 1 reason the business has survived and the answer is easy: honesty and customer service.
“If something goes wrong we fix it. If something doesn’t go wrong and the customer is unhappy, we fix it,” she said. “The customer means more to us than the bottom line.”
That connection with customers started with Gayle Selden’s grandfather Ed Selden – the company’s namesake.
He opened his floor coverings business in 1959 in Lakewood on the same block where it resides today. He chose the then-up-and-coming community because of the new construction boom – specifically the development of the Oakbrook neighborhood.
Throughout the decades that followed Ed Selden remained committed to Lakewood. So did his son, Rick Selden (Gayle’s father), who took over the business in the 1980s. Today Gayle Selden is at the helm, taking over from her father who retired last year.
With the days of new construction in Lakewood largely over, the bulk of the company’s business now comes from people replacing flooring, remodeling homes, or commercial installations.
The company employs seven people – including Gayle Selden – some of whom have been with the company 20 to 30 years.
While there are a lot of flooring retailers competing for business, the Selden family knows the extra care they give to their clients and the trust they build will keep them coming back.
“I will not sell them something that is not proper for their home,” Gayle Selden said. “I think the key to the success is that we strive for customer satisfaction.”
For its longevity in the community, its commitment to providing high-quality customer service and its dedication to giving back to Lakewood, the Lakewood City Council recognizes Ed Selden Carpet One as its November 2017 Business Showcase.