Letting go of something you’ve spent decades building is much harder than it may seem. In 1983, Don Morse began recovering aircraft at the Deer Park airport, about 18 miles north of Downtown Spokane. Over the years he has recovered hundreds of aircraft from all over the world, accumulating a vast inventory of aircraft parts. The ten acre facility across from the Deer Park KDEW airport is now covered with close to 400 aircraft in every condition imaginable. In addition, this property has an 80 unit mini storage facility which Don began filling with parts bought from auctions over ten years ago, since the main 16,000 square foot building filled up long ago.
Approximately 5 years ago, Don realized his world had become too much to manage and decided it was time to sell out. Finding a buyer, however, was much harder than Don expected. He knew he didn’t have the energy to organize the business so a buyer could make sense of it. Since a very small amount of aircraft parts were inventoried, it made it very difficult for any potential buyer to wrap their mind around the true value of the business. If you were to ask Don if he had a rear bulkhead for a 1958 Cessna 175, he could lead you through a rabbit trail of aircraft parts to the farthest corner of the building, point to a pile of boxes and say, “look under those”, and sure enough you would find exactly what you needed!
Kevin Eldredge, a business consultant and aviation entrepreneur in his own right, had come across the advertisement for Don’s business several times over a two year period before he decided to check it out while on a camping trip to the Northwest. What did Kevin see in the business that so many others had not? First and foremost was the phone calls. You simply cannot talk to Don for more than a few minutes without his phone ringing. It would be someone looking for a part, or asking Don to retrieve a wrecked aircraft, or simply seeking information that Don could simply recite from memory.
Next were the sheer volume of parts along with the non-existent marketing efforts. While sales continued to grow at a steady rate with a minimal website and only a few adds in the phone book, Kevin saw a huge potential to utilize modern online tools to build the business further. The potential seemed endless, and it only took Don and Kevin a few days to come to terms and set a date to close the sale.
It has taken Kevin and his wife, Karen, along with two employees, about 6 months to separate the trash from the treasures in the main building, and at last count they have logged about 5,000 part numbers into partbase.com; continuing to add about 250 per week. There are still 30 or so storage units full of parts that need to be cleared out, plus hundreds of parts in racks outside to inventory, but so far the effort in organization is paying off. Phone traffic continues at a steady pace, and we now receive most of our new requests from our website that organizes each request so we don’t miss anyone.
As the snow melts and flying seems to have resumed in the Northwest, the many other aspects of the business, including accident recovery and aircraft restoration, is expected to make for a busy summer.
While Don seems to be enjoying his new found freedom, he still stops by often to answer questions and make great suggestions about the business. Even after six months he will always answer the phone to help us out with questions, and he seems genuinely happy about the massive transformation.
We are eager to hear from our old and new customers about how we are doing and hope that you will drop by and see what we have done thus far.