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Builders In Scale Elm Street model

The Opportunity of a Lifetime

    Early June of 2002 I received a letter for Jim Haggard, a friend and the founder of Builders In Scale, stating that he was selling his company. After 20 years, he had decided to go back to school to earn a Ph.D. and become a marine biology teacher. At first, his wife Jan was going to keep running the business, however after 9-11, she decided that she didn't want to be home, alone, and she got a managerial job at a Denver blood bank. And so, Jim had been trying unsuccessfully to sell the company. He had mentioned this in his Christmas letter, to which I had meekly replied that while I was interested, I doubted that I could afford what it was worth.

    Fate sometimes takes a favorable turn, and in this case, I think it did for me. The next few weeks were frantic. Jim had set perhaps an unrealistic deadline, of bids no later than June 24, money but June 31st, and the business moved by the end of July. Jim explained, this, as urged by his cousin the lawyer, was meant to get the few interested parties that he had been discussing the purchase with for several months- finally to move. It was time to put up or shut up. And he had placed a minimum.

    I had to scramble, first to consider if I really wanted the company, what it was worth, what I could pay for it, how I would pay for it, and then- what the heck would I do with it- and my own company. All difficult questions to answer, especially in the space of a couple of week.

    Of course the first question was easy to answer- off hand, of course, yes, I wanted to buy the company. Not only was it highly respectable, well known and polished, but I also knew the equipment and inventory personally, at least to the extent of my prior visits and an understanding of what it took to create all the hundreds of white metal patterns- they alone, at least in my opinion, were probably worth the minimum bid. Add to that the white metal production equipment (5 or 6 times the capacity of my meager equipment), and the other featured piece of manufacturing equipment, the laser cutter. Jim had paid nearly the minimum bid amount for it- though that was for a new machine, it did not include the many laser patterns, and the product parts or kits they represented. Besides all the other stuff, I was convinced this was just too good a deal to pass up.

    Okay, so I wanted it, I knew it was worth the minimum bid, the next question was how much to bid, and how to get the money. We need more information. Jim provided four years worth of figures. Wow, it was doing really well back then, but then the steep decline when he got interested in fish (he volunteered at Ocean Journey, a new aquarium downtown Denver). And there were no figures for the last year, those must have been really gloomy, with both he and Jan stepping away for the business. A banker might not look past that, but I could- again, because of my intimate knowledge of the business. A discussion with a financially savvy friend confirmed its worth- But there still remained the question of paying for it.

    Such opportunities force you to look within. Both I examined what I had been doing with my own manufacturing company, and I looked at my assets. I was in terrible shape all round. Not much money in the bank, there were some stocks I could sell. I got some bad advice there, from several who said, oh, you don't want to sell your assets, go to a bank and borrow the money- If I had sold the stocks, right then, I would have had done the right thing as they dropped like a rock during this period and still haven't recovered- no matter, I didn't sell them. Instead I went to the bank and attempted to borrow the money only to learn- what I guessed all along, that they wouldn't do it. Not even with the stocks as collateral. I just hadn't shown enough income from my little model business.

    What about a Small Business Administration loan you might say? Well, yeah, I took a crash course in what that's all about. I even passed the first test which is getting rejected by your regular bank. Only there is all sorts of paperwork to fill out, business plans to write up, and all that stuff that goes along with borrowing money. I was running out of time! The deadline loomed closer and closer.

    Finally, my father stepped in and loaned me the money, secured by those stocks. But I'm getting ahead of myself here- the deadline. Am I really going to do this? Or should I go back to school like Jim? I always wanted to be an architect, or an artist, I love building stuff- And though it's just miniature stuff- model building, at least for me, provides the same creative outlets of those careers, with a lot less hassle. No diploma is needed, and I'm already there. Oh, what the heck- am I serious about this career or not?

    What the heck- I placed my bid.

    Jim had one other bid, actually less than the minimum but it did not include the equipment (because of duplication). I could have negotiated with Jim and come away with just the equipment, which would have been good to add to C. C. Crow- but I would be starting without any patterns or molds, no laser programs or all the Builders In Scale products to sell. No, I had to take the whole thing, it was just too great an opportunity to pass up. And I got it at a really great price.

    The next few weeks were filled with excitement and plenty of work. The shop was picked up and pushed around to make room. I flew out for a week of how to do everything and help pack it all up. My friend Glenn helped drive the big yellow Penske truck back to Seattle, and more friends helped move it into the limited space. The first order was to get the existing items back into production. Then over time new items were developed and added. Builders In Scale was back in business!

    There's been an on going struggle between the two identities, my own C. C. Crow - Fine Hydrocal Castings and Builders In Scale. They push one another back and forth. They blend together and pull apart. Sometimes (mostly) for the good. Sometime one or the other gets left out as the other requires full attention. Running either is a full time job so both is unlimited mandatory overtime seven days a week. Crazy stuff. While I would like to keep it all going I cannot, plus time has caught up with many of the CCC rubber molds, so much of what I used to offer is unavailable. On the other hand I've spent the past three years developing the ultimate CCC kit, the Durango roundhouse in 1/4" scale, and I'll spend the next year or more producing the kit. So things are in balance somewhat.

    I sometimes wonder what if I didn't buy Builders In Scale? Where would C. C. Crow be today? BIS brought many good things with it, laser cut and etch parts, Apple computers and Adobe publishing software, nice printers (color and tabloid), the white metal parts and production equipment. Without them I'd likely be doing a lesser quality job- the Durango roundhouse would be much simpler without the laser work and CAD drawings. No matter the route here I am.

    Sadily I must report that Jim died much too young of lung cancer. He was not a smoker so you never know. Besides loosing a good friend I also lost the guy who can answer all those questions about Builders In Scale.



C. C. CROW 's