The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Top Stories

September 12, 2012

Lamar company finds niche after O’Sullivan plant closed

LAMAR, Mo. — Two blocks from the former O’Sullivan Industries, which closed in 2007, a small locally grown company has capitalized on an autumn ritual to bring some jobs back to this community.

Redneck Blinds, in its second year of production, will turn out 2,800 elevated deer blinds this year, shipping them as far away as Pennsylvania, Texas and Canada.

Their chief product will be front and center this weekend as thousands of deer hunters take up positions in woods and along farm fields in Kansas and Missouri.

“We will sell all we can make,” CEO Danny Little said of the blinds.

Little, a Lamar native who formed the company with three former O’Sullivan employees, said the hole in the community left by the closing of O’Sullivan Industries drove unemployment past 13 percent in 2007/2008. The community is still working to find a new tenant for the large plant.

“At one time the peak (O’Sullivan) employment was 1,700 for a town of 4,500 people,” said Little, who retired a few years ago as president of Lamar Bank & Trust. “You can imagine how devastating that was to the community.

“But you’re not going to attract an 800- to 1,000-employee company to a town this size. The way for small towns to prosper and grow is going to be through the development of small businesses. It’s a lot better to have several small companies employing 25 to 50 people.”

Between Redneck Blinds and Little’s companion company, Big Green Targets, about 50 jobs have been created in the past four years.

In the beginning

Little, a banker for 26 years, had set a goal by age 50 to begin exploring a different career path.

“I wanted to sit on the other side of the desk,” he said.

He experimented with a number of business opportunities, including a recycled foam that proved to be the perfect fill for archery targets — something he and his brother discovered in the backyard one afternoon four years ago. A year later, Little and Russ Worsley, a former O’Sullivan employee and hunter, began manufacturing Big Green Targets using the foam from a company in Michigan.

They relied on local hunters for research and development, then took samples to one of Little’s former classmates, who owns Roger’s Sporting Goods in Kansas City.

“He bought a truckload, and that got us started,” Little said.

Little also was a partner at the time in another business with another former O’Sullivan employee, Tim Riegel, who manufactured high-end fiberglass bodies for replica 1930s cars under the label Redneck Street Rods.

“But when the economy tanked, the cars weren’t selling as well. Rather than just give up and close the company, we started looking at, ‘What can we make?’” Little said.

They found their answer at a hunting trade show: fiberglass deer blinds.

Worsley helped in developing the design, and Riegel was the head engineer on the project. Another partner and former O’Sullivan employee, Russ Hurt, got on board, and the four were soon busy building a prototype.

Roger’s Sporting Goods ordered 200 blinds, and two years later, Redneck Blinds employs 35 people and runs two shifts to keep up. Little serves as CEO, Hurt is the chief operating officer, Worsley is the vice president of engineering, and Riegel is the director of manufacturing and design.

The blinds are shipped across the country on the company’s own fleet of flatbed trucks by six part-time drivers. The 10-foot and 15-foot metal stands that support the blinds are fabricated in Kansas. Accessories, such as curtains for the blinds, employ local Amish women who manufacture them at their homes.

The all-fiberglass construction and gel-coat finish of the blinds requires no maintenance and keeps out critters. Carpeted walls and floors muffle sounds made by hunters, while tinted glass windows prevent deer from seeing movement inside. Horizontal windows allow for rifle hunting, while vertical windows allow for bow hunting. Models such as the Buck Palace allow for both on all sides.

The screen printing for the targets is done by clients of Lamar Enterprises, a workshop for individuals with developmental disabilities.

“We source everything we can out locally,” Little said.

“A lot of what we’re doing here is trying to help grow jobs,” he said. “It’s as much about growing jobs as anything. I grew up here, I love the community, and I want to see it grow and prosper.”

Entrepreneurial spirit

It’s not unusual for some customers to buy multiple blinds for use in several hunting spots — one customer who owns 20,000 acres in Alabama bought 34 of the blinds this year. They have been purchased as playhouses, for bird-watching and photography, filming football games, and to use as bus stops in rural areas.

This week, just as archery season begins, the company is about three weeks behind.

“Our demand is exceeding our supply right now,” Little said.

Now the men are considering developing related products, including a deer feeder next year and possibly duck blinds in the future.

Lamar City Administrator Lynn Calton called Little and his partners “very forward thinking.”

“We applaud them. It’s great that we still have people out there with the entrepreneurial spirit to start a business from nothing and see that grow,” Calton said.

The company is among about a half dozen, Calton estimated, that have cropped up in Lamar in the last five years as a grass-roots attempt at survival.

“What’s happened, since O’Sullivan closed, you had many people who went out on their own and created their own small companies,” Calton said. “We’re very enthused about these small companies like this — startup companies. It’s probably more realistic and viable than trying to get some new industry that employs 1,000 people. What are the odds on that?”

Hunting seasons

Missouri:

Archery deer season: Sept. 15-Nov. 9, Nov. 21-Jan. 15

All firearms (including muzzleloader): Nov. 10-20

Kansas:

Archery deer season: Sept. 17-Dec. 31

Muzzleloader: Sept. 17-Sept. 30

Modern firearms: Nov. 28-Dec. 9

Oklahoma:

Archery deer season: Oct. 1-Jan. 15

Muzzleloader: Oct. 27-Nov. 4

Modern firearms: Nov. 17-Dec. 2

 

1
Text Only
Top Stories
  • r041514recycledfashion.jpg Joplin High School students to model ‘recycled’ dresses at fashion show

    Audrey Kaman will walk the runway later this week wearing a dress she designed herself — made out of 250 doilies. “I’d say it’s a fun dress,” the Joplin High School sophomore said. “It’s not really elegant because it’s short, but it’s cute.”

    April 15, 2014 4 Photos

  • Shooter in Joplin murder sentenced to life in prison

    The teen convicted of being the triggerman in the murder of Jacob Wages was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with the possibility of parole. At a hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court in Joplin, Circuit Judge Gayle Crane followed a jury’s recommendations in assessing Daniel D. Hartman, 18, two life sentences on convictions for second-degree murder and armed criminal action, and 15 years on a conviction for burglary.

    April 15, 2014

  • Interchange construction work near Carterville to create safer off-ramp

    As the Missouri Department of Transportation begins rebuilding eastbound ramps at the Missouri Highway 171 and Route HH interchange near Carterville this week, drivers can expect ramp and occasional lane closures. The $1.5 million project, funded by the state, will increase the distance between ramps for drivers traveling northbound on Highway 249 and exiting eastbound to Highway 171.

    April 15, 2014

  • Schreiber Foods schedules Carthage plant expansion

    Plans to expand a Schreiber Foods plant to eventually add 160 new jobs have been endorsed by a Carthage committee working with the company. Andrew Tobish, director of combinations for Schreiber, which is based in Green Bay, Wis., confirmed the project, which he said would be complete by late spring or early summer in 2015.

    April 15, 2014

  • 3 To Get Ready

    Three things coming your way in Wednesday’s paper.

    April 15, 2014

  • Local Jews offer reactions to Overland Park shooting

    Jews in Joplin and throughout the region are struggling to come to terms with Sunday’s shooting at a Jewish community center and a Jewish retirement complex in suburban Kansas City, resulting in three deaths. The suspect has been identified as Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, of Aurora.

    April 14, 2014

  • Suspect in Kansas shooting has long history as white supremacist

    Frazier Glenn Cross drew the ire of Joplin residents in 2006 when several hundred copies of his white supremacist newspaper were landing on lawns in the city. The White Patriot Leader spouted the usual Cross diatribe. A race war was imminent. The “newspaper for white Americans,” as it billed itself, ranted against an invasion of the country by illegal Hispanic immigrants, the proliferation of black culture, and a purported takeover of the government, banks and the media by Jews.

    April 14, 2014

  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mike Seibert elected new mayor of Joplin

    Joplin’s new mayor pledged Monday night that the city will operate with more transparency and that work toward redevelopment will be the City Council’s priority. Mike Seibert, who withstood a challenge by another incumbent councilman in last Tuesday’s election to be the Zone 4 councilman, was elected mayor by a unanimous vote of the panel Monday night.

    April 14, 2014

  • 3 To Get Ready

    Members of the new Joplin City Council, in the wake of the April 8 election and turmoil that roiled to the surface last August, will elect a mayor and mayor pro tem. Read all of the details.

    April 14, 2014

Facebook
Poll

In an effort to curb prostitution, St. Louis police are targeting, and perhaps humiliating, the "johns" who use the services. Postcards mailed to the homes of those charged with trying to pick up prostitutes will offer a reminder about spreading sexually transmitted diseases, along with listing the court date. Do you think this is a good approach?

A. Yes.
N. No.
     View Results
NDN Video
Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge