Owner keeps family business moving forward
by Clay Neely
One of the most rewarding and fascinating aspects of a modern day family business is its ability to weather an economic storm.
Susie Powell began working for the family business in 2001. At the time, she had no specific job title. All Powell was expected to do was learn every facet of the business her family had created.
Because of this, Three Coins Cast has been able to survive the recent economic climate. Susie handles the marketing, planning and attending the trade shows, logistics, and office work, all by herself. Working in so many different capacities, Susie has helped the company keep its head above water and is already seeing a 24 percent increase in sales since last year.
Susie’s mother, Linda Ramsey, founded Three Coins Cast with her husband, Gordon, in 1988, originally partnering with Three Crown Antiques to do an outdoor line. In 1989, the family business went out on its own.
Susie now works with her older sister, Gardner Powell, who adds her experience of sales and marketing to the business. Add Susie’s children, Claudia and Jimmy Bost, who both contribute their mutual interest and expertise in photography and filmmaking to the company, and suddenly you are looking at a third-generation company with established business in Newnan.
A story of longevity and sustainability is only fitting, considering the company’s use of 100 percent recycled solid aluminum. This effort landed Three Coins membership in the Sustainable Furnishings Council, a non-profit balanced coalition of industry players founded at High Point, NC, that promotes sustainable practices among manufacturers, retailers and consumers.
“We grew up on a farm. So the idea of creating a more sustainable product and eliminating the amount of waste seemed like a natural fit. It also seems like a certain amount of our base customers are only interested in buying sustainable products,” she said.
Susie readily admits that an important aspect of her job is educating potential customers about why her product is in an entirely different league than her overseas competitors.
“The furniture you see in front of a big box store may look the same, but the customer soon realizes they only get what they pay for. Our furniture is handmade — it will, naturally, cost a little more, but the lifespan between our product and a Chinese-made set is incomparable.”
The welding and preparation work for the furniture is done by hand in Newnan. The designs are unique and local as well.
The typical basket-weave design of cast aluminum furniture has been the industry standard for many years. However, this year saw the introduction of the Windsor Chair.
The Windsor is a traditional wood-designed chair, but Susie wanted to see if the design would translate into cast aluminum. Once the design was complete, this new take on the Windsor chair launched in January.
“Once we saw that the chair was doing well, we decided to add the table and bench to the line, and because of adding these pieces, the chair is now the number one selling item — overtaking the crossweave chair that’s been our number one product for 23 years.”
“No one else is doing it yet … yet, I say, since the Chinese will knock it off within a year,” laughs Susie.
Susie wants to keep pursuing more “outside-the-box” ideas for cast aluminum.
Susie explains that families are now using the typically outdoor furniture indoors, in part, because of the fun designs and colors similar to what Susie employs.
“Since we do many funky colors, a lot of people are getting our bright red Windsor chair, and putting it with a wood farmers table, and it looks really cool. That seems to be becoming a trend nowadays — mixing medias, like teak with aluminum. People are expanding their tastes in terms of design. It’s so much more fun” says Susie.
With the current success of the Windsor line and its homage to wood designs, Susie is currently working on a prototype to create a square table that would come with planks so one can make it longer in the same fashion as a traditional dining table. While creating the custom cast aluminum furniture is clearly the primary mission, the company has also invested in sandblasting gear and is able to provide services such as repainting metal furniture.
“We do custom work in custom colors. We’ll do paint-matching from any Sherwin Williams paint number. A lot of people are seeing the vibrant color on cast aluminum furniture and we’re happy to provide that splash for them.”
But like most successful businesses, Susie recognizes her responsibility to give back to the community.
While her daughter was spending a semester abroad in France, the family had the opportunity to visit Normandy.
Susie, like many others, found this experience extraordinarily humbling and upon her return to the United States, began working with non-profit groups like Purple Heart Homes and the Wounded Warrior Project.
The company is also involved with The Georgia Transplant Foundation, working with ex-Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine, donating items for auctions.
When asked about the future of the company, Susie simply echoes what so many other independent business owners seem to practice. As long as she keeps enjoying what she’s doing, why think about stopping?
With a family company that seems to be making new strides in designs, and a marketplace extremely receptive to those works, it doesn’t look like things will be slowing down anytime soon.
“When you build something that lasts, you can only expect the customers to do the same.”