Summit Ridge Wood Designs

Tobie Beneli and Lin Grady of Summit Ridge Wood Design (SRWD) shifted their business focus from custom woodworking jobs including commercial and residential cabinetry to primarily building caskets. In 1997, Tobie’s relative passed away. The deceased’s immediate family called and asked Tobie to build a casket. The funeral home would not sell them one because they had an outstanding bill and the director suggested the family make one. Tobie acquired the specific dimensions needed and produced a finished casket for the family the following morning.

This experience caused Tobie and Lin to shift their woodworking business to primarily building caskets. “Our primary objective was to make affordable caskets to help people in need.” Some funeral homes can purchase an inexpensively made casket from China and sell it at retail, of up to 200%-600% above their wholesale cost. “We wanted to provide a high-quality casket at a fair and reasonable price.” Tobie added SRWD’s goal is also to educate people that they do not need to go through a funeral home for final arrangements including purchasing a casket if they so choose.

Business grew for SRWD over the following years and the need arose to upgrade their equipment and facilities. Tobie and Lin knew they had to expand from their 30’ x 60’ workshop and casket lining room adjacent to their garage. One piece of equipment they purchased at a trade show was a $138,000.00 computerized router, referred to as a CNC. The CNC automatically loads nine customized tools for precision cuts. “People cannot make the cuts a CNC can make. It also saves us a lot of time.” SRWD also purchased a laser engraving machine which enabled them to personalize the caskets. With the laser they incorporated recognition awards and cutting out veneer designs for a local ski company.

“We purchased the CNC machine in July and it was to be delivered in November. We required financing in order to complete the expansion. We knew of Small Business Development Center (SBDC) through Joe Keck who had previously helped us with our business plan. Joe suggested that we contact SBDC to inquire about a loan.”

Lin and Tobie qualified for and received a $25,000 loan from Region 9, but unfortunately that was approximately $35,000 short of the amount requested. The expansion was to include a larger workshop, the addition of a portable building and three-phase electrical. Lin contacted their bank but never received a call back. She notified Joe of their situation. Joe soon replied and referred them to Community Bank (CB) in Cortez. “Both SBDC and CB worked quickly and efficiently. From SBDC’s referral and having a completed business plan, we received our loan within a week.” The expansion began in August 2003 and was completed by November that year. SRWD’s facility and equipment upgrade was complete.

SRWD’s business took off afterwards. “The focal point remained to help people. This is a tough industry to get involved with because funeral homes do not want us as competition.” Tobie and Lin sell their caskets at wholesale and retail prices nationwide. Their largest customer base is within CO, AZ, UT and NM, in addition to the Navajo Nation. Tobie said, “There are Navajo families that must sell their livestock and raise donations to pay for funeral costs upward of $7,000 through a traditional funeral home. On our website (www.nativecaskets.com) we have information that this can be done much more affordably and is legal in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission.”

“We would highly recommend SBDC to others. They were quick and efficient, and we would never have received our loan from CB without them. Joe always kept in touch and never dropped the ball.”

C.A.R.E.

Tim Robinson worked for C.A.R.E. – Cleaning and Restoration Experts in Cortez for six years when his boss, the owner, decided to retire and move to Phoenix. Tim contacted Joe Keck at the SBDC for guidance concerning the purchase agreement. “Purchasing an existing business can be tricky. I wanted to look at the books and determine if the purchase price was fair and indicative of the businesses potential,” Tim explained. “Joe helped me review the

Read More »
The Wine Merchant

By Malia Durbano Eric Allen and Lesley Ponce needed some expert advice as situations in their business changed. They were moving from their location next door to Nature’s Oasis to their current location, next to the VFW at 1514 Main Avenue in Durango. Ponce who had been employed by The Wine Merchant for 10 years, would become a partner after the move. Allen explains, “I had some questions about how to structure a lease. I

Read More »
Mancos Early Childhood Learning Center

By Malia Durbano Many people and organizations came together to bring the Mancos Early Childhood Learning Center to fruition. Ken Charles, with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, read about the proposed center in the Mancos Times. He contacted Brian Hanson, Superintendent of Schools for the Mancos School District and encouraged him to apply for a Community Development Block Grant to build the school. The grant comes from HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban

Read More »
River Rim Teardrop Trailers

By Malia Durbano Tim Rossiter and his wife Peg, love to camp and hike. They bought a cargo trailer and turned it into a camper. In researching their design, they discovered a “big movement for people who wanted a small footprint.” In March of 2013, they started researching and planning a design for a teardrop camper. Their vision was to create a custom product with quality materials and craftsmanship. The Rossiters met with Joe Keck

Read More »
Rock Lounge

Marcus Garcia has been the owner of the Rock Lounge (RL), an indoor climbing gym in Durango, since 2014. Marcus had transitioned from being a RL employee, a rock climbing guide, and owner of a small construction company before then. The RL was profitable in his first year, yet he thought there was more potential to be realized. Marcus had sent his business manager to a locally sponsored event which introduced them to the Small

Read More »
BC Signs, LLC

“I remember the first time I met Joe Keck, I was huddled by a wood stove in a 4,000 square foot building accompanied by a meager video inventory and a vinyl cutter”, said Bryce Capron, on meeting Joe in at his place of business in Dove Creek. He sat next to the fire with me and we talked. “It was my first contact with a resource that I value and rely on to this day.”

Read More »