Usually it's brick-and-mortar businesses that switch to solely online operations, in order to save monthly lease costs and overhead.
For the successful, Washington-based online business Wine Rack Store.com and its sister retail site of Kitson Boards in Olympia, though, it's time to go retail.
“With the addition of Kitson Boards mixed with our already busy Wine Rack Store season, we just didn't realize how needed a larger production space would be needed this soon.” said Michael Kitson.
It's a homegrown success story for Kitson and his wife Denise. The couple operates Amazing Universe, the parent company of the pair of ventures that, admittedly, sells wildly different merchandise.
When the two started selling custom wine racks in 1995, paddle boards weren't even on their radar. But Wine Rack Store, which has expanded to selling wine cellars, provided the capital for the Kitsons to open Kitson Boards last year.
Now the surfboard, wakesurf board and paddle board manufacturing brand has outgrown the Kitsons' garage and — coupled with continued demand for Wine Rack Store's products — will expand to a 7,000 square foot space at 700 Marine Drive NE near Swantown Marina at the Port of Olympia, with an expected opening within two months.
“The growth of the paddle board market is so stunningly huge,” Michael said, “that (Kitson Boards) is quickly becoming our mainstay, our focus.”
Michael attributes the growth of the company to two reasons. For one, Kitson Boards is the only board producer to be entirely based in North America, in terms of both its employees and the products it uses. Secondly, unlike typical paddle boards made of fiberglass and weighing in around 60 pounds, the Kitsons make hand-crafted boards using carbon fiber and foam, which come in from 15-20 pounds and are much more durable.
“We're going for the 'Ferrari' of boards,” he said.
Ted Johnson, president of leasing company Simon Johnson, LLC in Tacoma, said that the addition of the Kitson production facility will take the space to full capacity.
“Kitson's is great news for us,” he said. “Mike's got a great business going, and we're happy to have him there.”
Several factors drew Kitson to picking the Swantown site for expansion, but waterfront access was key on the list. Now, the company will have handy shipping access, as well as a better facility for growing retail operations, a paddle board rental facility and easy opportunities to host board events on the waterfront.
“This is an ideal location for us on the water,” Michael said. “We can test boards here, and customers can come and try them out.”
What's most important about this location, he said, is that it will allow Kitson Boards to expand its product line to mass-produced boards that customers can take off the shelf. Michael said he expects to produce thousands of boards every month once they're up and running at full capacity, which also involves more than tripling their skilled employees from eight to about 25.
The new business also has the backing of the Port of Olympia, which is pleased to have another reputable local company on its turf.
“We have been very supportive of Kitson Boards (signing) here,” said Jeff Smith, the Port's finance director, “and we're very excited to see them come in to fill that space.”
Walt Pettit, owner of Pettit Marine boat building and renovation on the south side of the building, is pleased with his new business neighbor as well. Already he's partnered with Kitson in lending his forklift to unload deliveries.
“I believe in working with other companies that have a good reputation, because that's good for everyone,” he said. “They will also fill the space, and the more people that come by helps us, and it helps the community.”