Maker of custom crates first to feel economic breezes

When business is bad for northern Nevada manufacturers, it is probably good for Gordon and Susan Geffert. And when the economic news begins to turn positive, the Gefferts know they are in for a few weeks of tough sledding.

The Gefferts own Reno Custom Crating in Reno. Located near the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, the company provides custom-designed wood crates for just about any size object that needs to be shipped outside the region.

"We've been through three recessions since we started business in 1992," Gordon Geffert says. "In the crating business, when the economy really tanks, our business stays fairly steady because people are either shipping artwork or, if they are a manufacturer, they are moving out of town. Then, just about the time our economy hits bottom, my business takes a vertical drop. There are two to three weeks I actually call myself to make sure the phones are still working."

Geffert's background is in mechanical engineering. He had worked for Morton Thiokol, the aerospace giant, but wanted to run his own business so he could spend more time with his boys as they were growing up.

In 1992, he and his wife purchased Fyn Air, a wholesale air purifying equipment business. But soon after the purchase, California the primary market for Fyn Air's products passed a series of laws that effectively prohibited smoking in any building.

"That really hurt us," says Susan Geffert. "And on top of that, China was making air cleaning systems for less than we could buy the materials. We had purchased the crating business in 1996 and began to really focus on the crating and crate fabrication side. We have done very well."

Because the air purifying equipment needed to be shipped in customized wood containers, it was an easy stretch for the Gefferts to marry that business with the crating business. "We had the space. We had the wood fabrication equipment. We had the staff, so it was a natural fit," Susan Geffert says.

The fabrication function at Reno Custom Crating has also been enhanced with the addition of a CAD/CAM numerically controlled wood router. "We can fabricate crates from 2 inches square to one seen on our web site that was 10 feet by 10 feet," Gefferts says.

Three-fourths of the company's client base are manufacturing concerns. Past customers have included companies such as IGT, Wells Manufacturing, and Raytec.

But one of the crating company's big clients moved to India. Another, a Sparks-based manufacturer, relocated to Alabama because they received several years of free rent.

Still, as new firms begin to creep into northern Nevada, the Gefferts are confident they will be able to capture new clients.

Gordon Geffert says the current economic slump has brought the company more business, especially in the shipment of art objects or paintings.

"We do a lot of crating for art work that is being sent to either Christie's auction house or Sotheby's in New York. When times get tough, people who own art tend to auction them off to raise cash. We are the people they turn to."

One ongoing headache for the company, he says, is in the pricing of wood products.

"Our customers expect us to hold a quoted price, yet we never know from week to week what the lumber mills in northern California or Oregon are going to charge," he says. "I could get a good price this month, but next month they hit me with a 20 or 30 percent increase. But September was a good month for us and it looks as if October will be as well, especially with our manufacturing customers."

The Gefferts' crates travel all across the globe, too. "We do a lot of overseas shipping," he says. "We are ISM 15 certified which you need in order to move a product overseas."


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