Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.–If any company knows how to build a business from the dirt up, and can build up again after getting socked by that same economy that is duking it out with most everyone, it's Golden Eagle Log Homes, located here. And that's just what owners, brothers Jay and Tod Parmeter, intend to continue doing. This round, they're building up their dealer networks.
They already have a strong product, starting with native Eastern White Pine, abundant locally and purchased from area sawmills statewide. Norway Pine is also abundant in the area, though, said Jay Parmeter, it pitches too much. “White Pine is nice and straight, good looking, doesn't warp and is easy to work with.”
Parmeter buys 4.6 million board feet of Select and Better grade White Pine per year. Square or rectangular when delivered, the timbers are rounded to produce the various shapes needed. In the mix of 2x8 to 12x12 timbers he receives, the most popular sizes are 4x8, 8x8, 4x10, 10x10, 6x12 and 12x12.
In a worldwide market, the Parmeters have delivered on whatever parameters surface. For example, though all logs are natural, if designated for a bug-infested climatic destination, they'll be treated safely with a borate application.
The market is comprised largely of 50-year-old-plus customers building a retirement or second home alternative. Just within a one-mile radius of the manufacturing plant stand 10 of the Golden Eagle-built homes. People took note when the Parmeters put one log on top of the next to build their own family dwelling in 1976.
The Parmeters' father, Walter Parmeter, was building spec homes on the side while he worked by day in real estate sales. He and his wife, Marlace, began selling left-over materials out of their garage, which led to founding the Golden Eagle Building Center in 1966. Building the dream log home to live in and raise their family eventually led to the next phase, constructing 100,000 square feet of buildings on a 12-acre plot to manufacture and sell the log home assemblages, starting in 1986 and turning it over to sons, Jay and Tod, in 1996.
The production facility is flanked by a showroom, a model log home and two warehouses, one of which is heated by scrap wood. One holds finished product and the other typically holds 500,000 board feet of inventory lumber. A company-owned 100,000-board-foot capacity SII kiln is used to dry much of the raw product onsite to 15-19 percent and Pendu equipment carries logs through every step of the production process from shaping to planing.
The Pendu planer accepts up to 12x12 timbers. Machinists use a hand peeler if customers request a textured affect, a cut off saw to cut the timbers straight, or a splining machine to cut a groove on the end of the logs for a dado joint. Then logs proceed down line to three machine options, according to the corner style chosen, whether dovetail, butt and pass, or saddle notch. If they are to remain straight they proceed to the end of the line for delivery on one of three company trucks, a Sterling boom truck or one of two Ford cube vans, or for greater distances, subcontracted semis.
Parmeter observed that one shift of the company's 30 employees can construct one house assemblage per day. Included in the shipment is a code compliant, comprehensively complete package, the company’s claim to fame.
The website lists 1,200 floor plans with new ones added each year, based on the most current ideas on the market. The Parmeters exhibit Golden Eagle Log Homes at sports shows, conventional home shows and log home shows. The latest product is a highly insulated energy efficient full log home, though foam fills the space between two log halves. A Pendu splitter saw cuts the log in half as well as the corners.
Even given the magnitude of plans, customers never buy stock, said Parmeter. “They always change them; we draw up custom plans and then tell them what they want.”
Once a plan is chosen, the Parmeters make it as easy as child's play for builders, like getting a package of Lincoln Logs with the directions included. Currently over 1,000 builders around the country have been through a Golden Eagle log home builders training program. The log home package delivered to the builders includes comprehensive floor plans for exterior and interior, floor to ceiling to shingles, windows, kitchen cabinets even the kitchen sink, said Parmeter. “They have all the figures on how to cut and put it all together, so they don't make mistakes dreaming up solutions. They have good how-to descriptions and if they follow them they end up with a tight good quality house. It's foolproof.”
Parmeter has drawn up a good number of the plans and designers on staff are creating more daily. He recalls the lack of any plans when starting out in the business in contrast to what a new sales person can access immediately. “Back then we had no plans, no literature, no website. It all had to be created. Sales people now have a nice website, a 132-page brochure, all the plans and prices. With nothing to show a customer, it's difficult to describe.”
Parmeter admits it was even more difficult for his parents starting out with no financing. Yet the company faces a new challenge of building up the operation within a national recession. The tact is to build up the number of dealers around the country, currently at 30. Whether a realtor, contractor or other businessperson, each dealer has a model log home to display on location.
Parmeter explained,“Customers want a local presence, a go-to person.”Dealers, too, can participate in the Golden Eagle training programs.
The company has the capacity to manufacture 300 log homes and enough property to expand in the future. For now, the economy will direct how far the Golden Eagle will soar. Meanwhile, like the Log Home Council, a spin off of the National Association of Home Builders, which the Parmeters belong to, they'll be tightening up their log home packages, if they can squeeze any room for improvement in between the chinks.