By Eric Peterson | Mar 06, 2015
Grand Junction, Colorado
Founded: 1972 (as Lunsford Manufacturing and Sheet Metal; Colorado Cylinder Stoves launched in October 2009)
Owner Wes Beaver has found a new market for the longstanding sheet metal shop -- stoves for the recreational market. The company is on fire.
Lunsford Manufacturing and Sheet Metal hit a speed bump after four decades in business on the Western Slope.
"We were a sheet-metal shop and we still are," says Beaver. "In the downturn of the economy, we needed to make our plasma machines busy, so we started making cylinder stoves for the recreational market."
The company started with "onesies and twosies” but soon scaled up and has since manufactured thousands of stoves and sells through such retailers as Cabela's, Gander Mountain, and Bass Pro Shops. "Even in a terrible economy, we were able to find a product and a market, and were able to grow," says Beaver.
Colorado Cylinder Stoves now makes four different stove models as well as fire rings. The stoves are designed for tents and other recreational settings; a collapsible model is made for horseback.
"It's compact," says Beaver. "You can take all of the accessories loose and fit them in the stove box. And they're durable. They'll last forever."
Other selling points? "They're American-made and we have great customer service," he adds. "We send replacement parts for free."
An employee of Lunsford since the early 1990s, Beaver bought the company in 2011. "I was facing buy the company or have no job," he says. "I like to think that I've saved seven jobs."
Colorado Cylinder Stoves is now making more than 2,000 stoves a year, with a big sales spike during the runup to the fall hunting season. "By May 1, we try to have hundreds of stoves on the shelves ready to go," says Beaver. "By the fall, we're working overtime to keep up."
The company has annual revenues of about $2 million, and the stoves have overtaken the legacy HVAC work. "I don't pursue [HVAC] as much as the old owner," says Beaver.
Consumer-facing outdoor shows are a key part of marketing. "We put it out in front of people so they can touch it and see it," says Beaver.
Hunters make up about 85 percent of the company's market, he adds, but "preppers” and "self-reliance people" are a growing niche.
Challenges: "Competing with China," says Beaver. As it's hard to compete on price, Colorado Cylinder Stoves focuses on quality, he adds.
A second challenge is sourcing parts domestically. For instance, U.S.-made cast iron dampers are difficult to find. "I have searched high and low," says Beaver. "We've either got to make them ourselves or get them from somewhere else. We try to make an entirely U.S.-made product, but sometimes it's impossible."
Opportunities: New markets. "We're branching into Alaska, with is really tough on shipping costs," says Beaver. He's doing a sportsman's show in Anchorage and has an antidote to the steep freight charges: referring customers to a local store that carries Colorado Cylinder Stoves.
He says the company is also looking for new retailers and has targeted Scheels All Sports and Dick's Sporting Goods.
Needs: Labor is a constant need for the growing company, as Beaver anticipates hiring four new employees in 2015. "It's mostly welding and steel work," Beaver explains.
Colorado Mesa University does a good job training welders, he says, but the the available workforce ebbs and flows with the Western Slope's energy industry. "Now that the price of oil has dropped, everybody's wanting their jobs back."