Spokane Journal of Business

Spokane metals company opens third retail branch

Coeur dÂ’Alenes Co. acts to offset loss of business from aluminum industry

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The Coeur dAlenes Co., a Spokane-based metals distribution, processing, and fabrication business, this week opened a CdA Metals retail metal distribution center in Dalton Gardens, Idaho, just north of Coeur dAlene.

The company is considering establishing similar retail centers in Boise, Idaho and Missoula, Mont., but has yet to begin exploring possible locations for those outlets, says Jim Coulson, president and CEO of Coeur dAlenes.

The new center occupies a leased, 3,600-square-foot metal building at 80 W. Wilbur. It is the companys third such retail outlet, says Coulson. The company opened its first such center, located on Julia Street here next to the companys 96,000-square-foot main Spokane plant on E. Broadway, several years ago. That center occupies about 3,000 square feet of floor space. The company opened another branch center in a similarly sized, leased facility in Wenatchee, Wash., in 1999, Coulson says.

The retail branches essentially are metals convenience stores that emphasize customer service and sell a variety of milled steel and aluminum sheeting and related products, as well as Italian-made wrought-iron products, including fencing and gates, to businesses and homeowners, Coulson says.

Coeur dAlenes had conducted metal distribution operations, doing business as Stock Steel, and metal fabrication operations separately at its main site in East Spokane for many years. Eventually, it will change the name of its Stock Steel outlets to CdA Metals, he says.

Those businesses were consolidated after the close of the companys fiscal year last fall to reduce operating and tax expenses, he says. The companys metal-fabrication operations relied on Northwest aluminum companies and other aluminum-industry suppliers for between 35 percent and 45 percent of its customer base, Coulson says. The companys fabrication business will continue on a very limited scale, says the companys most recent 10-K annual report.

Coulson says the aluminum industry here was a major niche market for his companys metal-fabrication business, which has fabricated such items as steel crucibles, potshells, liners and slurry impellers for the aluminum and other metals industries. Coeur dAlenes last year reduced its work force by about 20 positions, to 55 employees currently, as a result of the decline in business from the aluminum industry, and likely will discontinue its fabrication operations entirely if the aluminum industry here does not recover, he says.

The establishment of retail centers is part of a strategy intended to move the company away from its reliance on large, high-volume customers and into new markets, Coulson says. The company is in the process also of testing the market here for stainless steel, copper, and brass products, and may expand its retail inventory further to include those, he says.

The publicly traded company reported a net loss of about $132,000 for its fiscal year ended in September of 2001, down from net income of about $155,000 for the prior year.

Established in Murray, Idaho, during the gold rush of 1884 as J.R. Marks & Co., a supply house for miners, the company became part of Holley, Mason, Marks & Co. of Spokane just prior to Washington statehood in 1889.

Following a series of mergers and name changes that took place over the next century, the company emerged with its present name following a merger with a mining company in 1993. Coeur dAlenes sold off its mining claims following the merger and no longer is involved in that business.

  • Rob Strenge

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