An interest in business and a hands-on background in mechanics proved to be a perfect combination for Tim Allen when he considered becoming a small business owner.
Those factors have helped him successfully establish and grow Tim Allen Equipment, a sales and repair business at 1240 S.E. Stephens St., Roseburg.
“The community has been very good to us,” Allen said. “If you treat people right, they’ll treat you right. I enjoy taking a moment occasionally to reflect on where we’ve come from and the community support we’ve had in coming as far as we have in 11 years.”
After working for others for about 12 years, Allen, with support from his wife Greta, went out on his own in 2002. He bought a used postal service van and converted it to a mobile equipment repair center, installing cabinets to hold parts and tools, and a workbench. He worked from the garage of his Melrose area home, primarily working on equipment that previously had been sent out of the area for maintenance and repair. Those included paint sprayers and floor care equipment.
One of his stops, as suggested by a friend, was at Colorcraft Paint & Wallpaper Store in Roseburg. His intention was to ask Colorcraft owner John Michel if he had any machines that needed servicing, and his timing was perfect. A pressure washer that a customer was there to pick up had a problem with a pull rope. Allen was able to fix it in about 20 minutes and the customer left with the rental machine.
That experience led Michel to offer Allen a storefront at the back of his paint store in the fall of 2003. Soon after Allen set up shop, Michel transferred the equipment rental business over to Allen.
“I thought his service business was a good fit for my business,” Michel said. “And he had way more knowledge than we did of how to maintain the sprayers and washers we had for rent.”
Allen soon added an employee and a part-time bookkeeper to his small business. Five years later he needed more room and purchased property and a building at the south end of Stephens Street near the historic Parrot House.
In 2009, Allen opened a second business, Roseburg Rental, under the same roof. The opening coincided with the closure of two franchised equipment rental businesses in Roseburg. Allen attended the equipment auction at one of them and purchased about 20 machines to boost the inventory of his new business.
With the addition of the rental business, he found his property short on space. He sought out a new location and purchased property several blocks to the north on Stephens. He made the move there two years ago.
“Everybody likes it better here,” he said. “It’s more user-friendly, there’s room to move, there’s better access for semitrucks.”
Allen said he and his wife have been determined to live “very, very frugally.” Another factor in his success, he said, is the Umpqua Community College’s Small Business Development Center. He said its advisers helped him make the right business decisions. He also attended the center’s monthly meetings to stay informed.
“There are opportunities to speak with professionals in accounting, human resources and other areas,” he said. “You could hear questions from somebody sitting next to you that you had never thought of ... The center helped us stay focused on things that were important.”
Eric King, a purchasing agent for Roseburg Forest Products, said Allen has been doing business with RFP for about 10 years.
“He has the supplies and personnel needed to repair our pumps,” King said. “They do a good job of maintaining our pumps and washers.”
Derek Wiese, a Roseburg construction owner, has done business with Allen since he began his service company.
“They’re local, they’re friendly and they know what they’re doing,” Wiese said of Tim Allen Equipment.
Allen showed a knack for mechanics back when he received a Max van toy as a gift from his parents at the age of 6 or so. He played with it for a couple days and then dissected it. He renovated the toy into an alarm with a thumb tack hitting a bell for the alarm.
“I feel sorry for my parents,” Allen said. “I tore everything apart.”
But the youngster’s interest in mechanics was allowed to blossom and those experiences served him well as he grew older. At age 8 he began to do cleanup work in his father’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle shop. A couple of years later, he began to tinker with the machines and equipment in the shop.
Allen graduated from South Umpqua High School in 1985. Some classes at that school sparked his interest in business. He then enrolled in the automotive program at Umpqua Community College.
His interest in business was put on hold, however, because at age 21 he married Greta and he needed to go to work.
“I had the background in mechanics that could pay the bills so that is the direction I went,” he said. “We started a family young and we had responsibilities. But as soon as we were in position to go into business, that’s what we did.”
He said he’s been successful enough that now “I get to work on my business endeavors, not in my businesses.”
“There’s instant enjoyment in being mechanical and fixing something by the end of the day,” Allen said. “But I also enjoy the challenge of working on other business opportunities.”
• News-Review business reporter Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.