ADDRESS: 457 SW C Ave, Corvallis, OR
OWNER: J. Andrew Collins
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 48
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 1
WHAT THEY SELL: Screen construction and repair
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: For creative solutions and quality craftsmanship that meet a wide variety of screen needs – and for expert, friendly service
Andy Collins and his wife, Patty, have made their home business a warm and welcoming place for their customers. Their open, friendly style instills a sense of trust and confidence that is well-deserved. Andy’s experience and skill at his craft are evident both in his products and in the loyal customer base that he has developed. Andy and Patty are long-time Corvallis residents who express a strong sense of connection to the community, and they are eager to help local residents find window and door screen solutions that add to the livability of their homes.
Andy, when and why did you decide to buy your business? We bought the business from Lyle and Helen Ellis 12 years ago. Lyle had owned Oregon Screen Crafts for 36 years, and we had used the business ourselves. I was a teacher at the time. [Andy taught shop at Western View Middle School, the Farm Home, and Corvallis High School.] We were looking for something to do in the summer – and we needed to find a way to provide for our kids’ college. I have always been mechanically inclined, and when we found out Lyle was planning to sell the business, we made an offer. Lyle taught me everything he knows. It was in our purchase contract that he would train me. So for the first several years, while I was still teaching, Patty was running the business.
The business is open year-round, but our peak is in the summer. We offer self-service, where people can drop off their screens on our side patio, fill out the paperwork, and come back when the screens are finished.
Tell us more about your services. What are your favorites? We do screens, and if we can’t do it, you’re not going to find anyone else who can. We do a range – windows, swing doors, patio doors, retractable doors, storm windows, screens for food dryers, and motorized sunscreens. This is an automatic (or manual) screen that comes down when the temperature gets to a certain point. By using the automatic screen, you can avoid having an air conditioner. We have about $40,000 in inventory in screen material – 8 different types of screen material and 4 different colors of frame material. There are a lot of choices.
Because this is a problem-solving business, it’s fun to figure out solutions. I get people coming in with challenges, and I like to help them. There are a lot of unique problems with screening.
What does being featured as the Local Business of the Week mean to you? It’s kind of exciting! It’s fun to have the opportunity to let people know about our business. We don’t do much advertising. Most of our business is word of mouth.
Does your business fill an unusual niche? Why should people patronize your business? We can solve any screen problem. People are really excited when they discover us. Everything is custom-made. There’s no such thing as a standard sized screen! Every year I run into a new style of window.
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business owner? The biggest challenge for us has been pricing – deciding what to charge. For some items, if I were to charge what regular vendors charge, it would be prohibitive. Also, figuring out the best way to advertise is challenging. Most people are on a 10-year screen replacement cycle, so screens are not something people go out and buy on a regular basis.
What do you feel is the impact of local independent businesses on Corvallis, and what does the future look like for the local independents? I think Corvallis is incredibly unique. There’s a movement in the community to support local independents. People are getting the message that it’s important to consider local first.
What do you enjoy most about owning a local, independent business in Corvallis?
(Patty) I like the customers. We have several regular customers who do maintenance work. Also, it’s nice to be able to operate out of our home. I like the flexibility.
(Andy) I like being able to talk with customers. It’s very casual. People are often surprised by how well we get to know our customers.
(Patty) The side yard by Andy’s shop has a lot of plants, and I can always tell which customers are gardeners because they love to talk about the garden.
What is your relationship to the community? We’re typically not a business that people come to for donations, but we help out groups like Jackson Street Youth Shelter and Habitat for Humanity. Also, I’m a professional Santa at this time of year, so I take a flyer around the neighborhood and do one-to-one visits with the children. I also play Santa at the Waldorf School, the pre-school at Corvallis High School, Storybook Land, and the Pastega House Light Show.
How important is sustainability to you and your business? We’ve always been very committed to doing things in a way that’s environmentally-friendly. Our business shop has solar panels, and they pretty much pay for our energy use. When our shop was rebuilt, we put in T-8 fluorescent lamps and compact fluorescents. We recycle foam at the South Co-op Recycling Center, and our neighbors bring over their scrap appliances. I pull them apart and take out the metals for recycling or reuse. We rebuild used window frames if it’s economically feasible. I save cardboard tubes and put them on Craigslist, and someone usually wants them for a project of some type. We recycle batteries and lights. I get packing material with some of our materials, and I take it to Teal or the packing store at the Timberhill Shopping Center so they can reuse it.
Please give us your one-sentence take-away message about your business. For creative solutions to your screening needs, come to Oregon Screen Crafts.
(Interview and article by Annette Mills – December 8, 2013)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Community Independent Business Alliance (CIBA).