Phil Castle, The Business Times
When construction slowed in the Grand Valley — and the sheet metal business along with it — Wes Beaver began thinking of other ways to use the expensive machinery at his Grand Junction company. He came up with an idea to fabricate portable camp stoves.
But what started out as a way to diversify operations soon evolved into a growing enterprise that now manufactures more than 1,300 stoves a year sold by retailers across the United States.
In the process, the two complementary operations Beaver now owns have remained viable. “If I hadn’t had this as a new business, I would have been broke by now,” he says.
Beaver owns Lunsford Manufacturing and Sheet Metal as well as Colorado Cylinder Stoves. While he purchased the companies in early 2011, he worked for 20 years as an estimator and foreman for Lunsford, a plumbing, heating and cooling company.
Colorado Cylinder Stoves was born during the recession and a slowdown in construction in the Grand Valley, Beaver said. With less demand for duct work and other sheet metal fabrication, he was wondering how to keep machinery in use, including a computer-controlled plasma cutter that turns pieces of metal into various components.
Beaver says he was cleaning out his garage when he realized he could use the machinery to make the portable stoves campers and hunters use to heat and cook.
He worked out the design for the stove and its components using computerized drafting software that also controls the plasma cutter. He initially manufactured eight stoves to make sure the design worked and the parts fit together.
The stoves feature a cylindrical body in which to burn wood or coal, a flat top for a cooking surface and adjustable legs made of pipes. All of the components fit inside the stove for easier transport and storage.
The cylinder stoves now come in four sizes that can be used for heating and cooking in canvas wall tents and tipis as well as small, seasonal cabins, Beaver says. A collapsible pack stove also is available that weighs 32 pounds and fits in a pannier for packing in on horseback.
The stoves come with accessories, including warming trays and a tank that can be used to store heated water.
While similar stoves are available on the market, Beaver says Colorado Cylinder Stoves are manufactured in Colorado out of sturdy 10- and 12-gauge steel. “They should last a guy a lifetime,” he adds.
Beaver’s first account for his stoves was a locally owned sporting goods store in Grand Junction. “It gave us a start.”
But Beaver soon was distributing stoves through a growing list of national sporting goods retailers, including Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Gander Mountain, Overton’s and Sportman’s Warehouse. The stoves now are available at more than 400 locations across the United States, he says.
Having the stoves on display at retail locations and the various outdoor shows and expositions in which Colorado Cylinder Stoves participates helps in selling the products, Beaver says, because potential customers can see and touch them.
Beaver also sells stoves online through the Colorado Cylinder Stove website and Amazon.com, and says the products have received great reviews on the Internet.
While cylinder stoves are most popular with hunters and campers, Beaver says his customer base also includes “preppers” — people who stockpile the food and equipment necessary to survive disasters. Beaver also sold stoves to people who lost the ability to heat their homes and cook in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
And there’s a possibility Colorado Cylinder Stoves could land a contract to supply stoves and other products to the federal government, he says.
Sales have increased 20 percent to 25 percent every year since 2010, and Beaver expects the trend to continue. “We’ll continue to grow.”
In addition to stoves, the company manufactures and sells everything from decorative fire pits and fire rings that can be customized for individual customers to metal napkin and key holders. “We’re always looking for new things to build,” Beaver says.
The firm also sells tents and tipis, and Beaver recently added yet another venture to his operations in selling rustic lumber, including log and cedar siding and fence pickets.
Meanwhile, Lunsford Manufacturing and Sheet Metal continues to serve the local construction industry, Beaver says.
The firm was among the contractors involved in the construction of Del Taco restaurants, the Sprouts store and a medical office building in Grand Junction.
The local construction market remains slow, however, and margins slim, Beaver adds. “It’s competitive and its very cutthroat.”
With a comparatively small operation and staff of eight, though, Lunsford can survive in that environment, Beaver says.
“It doesn’t take a lot of work to keep us busy.”
Manufacturing stoves helps keep the machinery and staff busy, particularly in building up inventory during the summer months in preparation for sales in the fall, Beaver says.
“What sets us apart is we’re diversified,” he says. “We’ve got a marketable product that carries us through.”
For more information about Colorado Cylinder Stoves, visit www.coloradocylinderstove.com., call 243-4595 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.