Although the company was founded by someone else in 1938, the Anderson family has had strong ties to—and a hand in the success of—Northwest Trophy & Awards for most of its lifetime. The business got its start manufacturing bowling awards in the Seattle area, and relied on salesman Harold Anderson for many of the components it needed to fulfill those orders. Despite Harold’s reputation for excellent service up and down the West Coast, life was difficult for a traveling salesman with a family near Los Angeles. So, with knowledge of the business and tired of life on the road, Harold purchased Northwest Trophy in 1953 and spent the next 9 years operating locations in Seattle and Portland, OR—which Harold himself opened after taking over the business—providing not just trophies for bowling, but also making shirts, finishing lanes, and drilling balls.
The Second Generation Takes the Lead
However, in 1962, Harold was involved in a fatal automobile accident while traveling between the two stores. With their father gone, his twin sons, Skip and Butch, had no choice but to take over the business several years before they’d planned. “Our fathers’ transition was kind of an accident,” said Robb Anderson, the son of Skip, who now co-owns the business with his brothers, Gary and Rich, and their cousin, Mike Anderson. “They didn’t really know what they were doing; it was more survival for them. I’m sure there was a learning curve and they made some mistakes along the way, but they didn’t share those (details with us).” After receiving advice from an accountant, the brothers closed the Portland store— but as time went on, the business expanded and grew, adapting to changes in the market. Though bowling alleys began setting up pro shops and bringing many of Northwest’s services “in house” during the 1970s, demand for awards exploded and newer technology changed how those awards were made. The Awards in Seattle business also began regularly making recognition and years of service awards for many schools and other organizations. To reflect its evolution, the business’s name changed, as well, from Northwest Trophy to Northwest Trophy and Bowling Supplies during the heyday of its bowling business, and, eventually, to its current moniker of Northwest Trophy & Awards to reflect its new niche.
The Evolution of Business
As the Trophies in Seattle business moved into the new millennium, the third generation of Andersons took over and the company expanded further to now include three locations in the Seattle area. About 95% of Northwest’s manufacturing is done at a 6,000-sq ft facility in Woodinville, WA, which the family opened about 6 years ago. Over time, the company also grew to 13 employees, some with decades of tenure, including father Skip and Mike’s mother, both of whom have keys to the store. “They’re always allowed to come into any store and do whatever they want. We want them to feel like it’s still a part of them, even though it’s our business now,” Robb said. The Andersons also expanded their equipment as customer needs changed. “We had a pantagraph and automark, then went to metal photo and screen printing,” Gary Anderson said. “We added computer engravers, lasers, sandblasting, sublimation, and UV printing.” Even though the technology has changed, however, Robb is quick to note that they still use their pantagraph almost weekly. This wide array of equipment is necessary to ensure the Andersons can satisfy every customer order onsite and to their own discerning standards. “We try to do everything in house so we can control three things: the quality, the production, and the turnaround,” Robb said.
Online and On Time
Customers throughout the country utilize Northwest’s online store, but Robb estimates the brick-and-mortar stores still are the more popular destination, receiving about 25 walk-ins each day—with some lucky customers getting personal visits. “The locations have a lot of traffic exposure (because) people like to touch and feel things,” he said. “We also will visit customers in this area if they don’t have the time to get to us. The number one thing our father (Skip) taught us was customer service. We do what we have to ... to make (the customer) happy. Great customer service is great advertising,” Robb said. Although the online store already does a great deal of business, the family anticipates changes will come, with Gary noting how the awards industry is evolving as more suppliers also become retailers using online technology. “It’s a double-edged sword (because) to stay competitive as things go on, you find niches (with more opportunity) to provide turnaround and customer service,” Gary said. To help the business adapt to these changes, the Andersons also recently implemented a point-of-sale system to track orders more efficiently.
Looking to the Future
Although changes may come, awards never go out of style— and Northwest Trophy & Awards produces some famous ones, including awards for the Seattle Mariners and the trophy given each year to the best groundskeeping crew in Major League Baseball. “There’s a trophy in the Hall of Fame with our sticker on it. That’s pretty cool,” Robb Anderson said. There’s also a fourth generation working in the shop, including Gary’s son Chad, who may take over the business someday if he wants—and if he can demonstrate the same “family values” of quality and customer service. “There’s no set plans where he automatically gets the company,” said Robb. “We’re not going to give it to them. They have to earn it,” Gary added. The standard set by the Andersons will be a hard one to live up to, however. In addition to their stellar reputation among customers and business growth, late last year, the company was recognized by the Washington governor’s office as “Small Business of the Year” for hiring people with disabilities. “That was a real proud moment for us as a business,” Robb said. “We didn’t hire anyone for recognition, we hired good workers. It was a total surprise to get that.” So much a surprise, he said, that he hadn’t even prepared a speech. “I’m sitting there (at the event), not really paying attention, and then they called my name. In my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Well I don’t really know what to say because I didn’t think I’d win.’” However, even at that moment, the Andersons’ keen business sense kicked in. Although Northwest hadn’t manufactured that award, “I did have to put my salesman hat on and mention we can do that work,” Robb said. “(And) I think we’re going to now.” For more information visit their website at http://www.nwtrophy.com.
SOURCE: Press Advantage [Link]
At Northwest Trophy and Awards Recognition of Excellence - Trophies, Plaques, Medals is a time honored way of memorializing great achievement. Custom and Special Order items available upon request. Three locations to serve you.
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