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This interview is sponsored by the Anchor Auto Group as part of their initiative to help promote other locally owned area businesses.

Tracey Beck

Tracey Beck of the Beck Companies

Discover Rhode Island
Today, we’re talking with Tracey Beck, one of the owners of The Beck Companies in North Smithfield.
Tracey, thanks for joining us. Can you tell us a little more about your business?

Tracey Beck
Sure. The Beck Companies are a set of local family owned Rhode Island manufacturers. We specialize
in interior finish goods in construction related products. Countertops or all types, commercial cabinetry,
recreational gaming tables, metal fabrication and custom closets.

Discover Rhode Island
When did the Beck Companies start?

Tracey Beck
The first one, which is the stone division started in 2007. And since then we’ve gone on to acquire new
divisions roughly every five to seven years. So the age varies depending on the division, the most
recent acquisition is the metal company Dark horse metal which is going on about six months old.

Discover Rhode Island
Overall, what are the different companies that make up the Beck Companies?

Tracey Beck
KB surfaces, the original one is a stone countertop fabrication division. It does all the hard surfaces,
quartz, granite, marble, etc. The one we acquired after that was the closet division, Closettec. That
one’s about eight years old. It does custom storage solutions, predominantly custom closets. Next up,
CAS America, that one’s about six years old. That division does commercial case-goods, Bars,
restaurants, nursing homes, a lot of specialty things like dental offices, medical facilities, hospitals, pot
facilities, I think they call them compassion centers these days. After that, we acquired Great American
that’s our commercial gaming division, pool tables, air hockey, shuffleboard tables, soccer tables.
Finally, the most recent acquisition is the one I mentioned earlier, which is our metal fabrication division.
It’s called Dark Horse Metal Fabrication. So, they’re all pretty interrelated which allows us to do whole
projects and be one source, both commercial and residential, depending on what the project scope is.

Discover Rhode Island
And is everything manufactured right there in North Smithfield?

Tracey Beck
It is. We have about an 85,000 square foot facility. Each of the divisions have a bay. The bays run
anywhere between 10,000 up to 40,000 depending on which division needs the most space.

Discover Rhode Island
And do you sell to retail customers at all, or just wholesale?

Tracey Beck
Most of what we do is wholesale. Stone, metal, commercial cabinetry are sold mostly via millwork
houses, builders and designers. Our game tables are via distribution chains worldwide. The only
division we have retail right now is our closets. We have a mobile showroom. We also have the
wholesale component to our closets we sell into our kitchen and bath dealers, our builders and
designers, but it’s mostly geared for residential and that’s our only retail division.

Discover Rhode Island
In light of the current pandemic, is the business still doing ok?

Tracey Beck
Overall, our company revenues are down, sales are down over most of the divisions. The division that
was hardest hit is our gaming division. Our gaming division is straight, direct. wholesale, we ship all
over the world, Our games are made to go into high use, high traffic areas like colleges, bars,
government facilities, hotels, over 55 communities gaming rooms, cruise ships. Any place where people
gather together socially for gaming, you know, carnivals, fairs and things like that. That’s where our
gaming tables go. You’ve probably seen the Eagle in the corner of the tables. So, when the pandemic
hit and all the gathering areas and social components basically went away, that division went to
nothing, literally nothing. We were looking at having to let go 15 people. Prior to us acquiring it, it was a
family owned company just like ours. Great American tables are very well-known name brand. They’ve
been in business for 40 years. a lot of those same people work for us, the original owners work for us.
We didn’t want to see that division go by the wayside. We quickly shifted our manufacturing platform.
Everybody pitched in and we started making PPE (it started with disposable face masks. We can
produce up to 10,000 a day. It morphed quickly from masks, into custom sneeze guards, and custom
acrylic dividers for bars, offices, restaurants, colleges, schools, you name it. Anything anyone needs to
prepare the space to be able to try to navigate this pandemic. We’re helping them by quickly retro -ing
office spaces or retail establishments, disposable face masks and acrylics enabled us to not have to
lay off anyone. And in fact, we are actually hiring. It was a really big team effort. My husband spear
headed it and we adapted on the fly. everybody just kind of figured out a way to adjust in the fastest
safest way possible in this unprecedented time.

Discover Rhode Island
So how do people who are looking for PPE know that you’re a source for it? In the past, you’ve known
for all the products that you’ve manufactured so far in the companies you’ve bought. So how does a
new company who’s looking for PPE, find you to know that you do that?

Tracey Beck
Most of its word of mouth or long-term customers who buy across our platforms. We don’t even really
have very good signage and we do no advertising. But let’s say our customers have been buying
countertops from us, whatever type of countertop and they have the bar that they want to put those
countertops in. Well, then everybody at that bar is in a frenzy, they need PPE equipment, they need the
acrylic dividers, they need custom dividers, it’s ever changing, the rules and the capacity guidelines due
to covid based on the state. The guidelines are in flux and vary state to state depending on the type of
facility and space restrictions. We need to be able to move very quickly to adapt to whatever is going on
to keep their consumer their customer base safe. If they come to us and say, “Can you do this?” With
such a diverse manufacturing platform we have access to all different product mediums and state of the
art equipment. We figure out how to do it. We will help value engineer for them, and we’ll turn it around
in a reasonable timeframe.

Discover Rhode Island
That’s great that you have the experience and the ability to make that switch and figure out quickly how
to produce that and do it at scale. So that division must be pretty busy?

Tracey Beck
It’s very busy, Yes. Our stone division is picking up, our closets have been probably the most
consistent. It had the smallest drop in sales. We think we’ve done a pretty good job, working very
closely with the state of Rhode Island and We make RI. They’ve been an invaluable asset to us,
helping us to find resources to adapt to this stuff fast. And we started doing the temperature check and
the screening question very, very early on. We do a lot of things like enhanced cleaning that we started
early on. Our people have been great, you know, other than a very small percentage of the overall
employees. I’d say 75% of our employees have really dug in and tried to be as flexible and
accommodating in this environment as they could be, while still remaining safe, to do whatever needed
to be done to keep the businesses going and to help us keep them employed.

Discover Rhode Island
Great. Let’s switch gears for a minute to talk about the PPP program. Your company was a recipient of
that program. Obviously, with all the companies and all the people you have, funding is an important
part of the business. So how has it helped you to stay consistent with all your employees and not lay
anyone off?

Tracey Beck
Absolutely. We didn’t end up laying anyone off through any of the companies, and we would not have
had that option without the PPP. So basically, it gave us the critical time needed where we had to pretty
much relearn and reconfigure how to do everything under all new conditions. And all kinds of
obstacles where coming at us, Sales dropped, we had higher costs. The expenses went through the
roof, there was manufacturing delays, employee attendance obstacles, quarantining as needed, social
distancing etc. And we had to retro our facility, just like everyone else. We had to learn how to
manufacture a whole new product line, all that cost money. there was plenty of trial and error where we
did a lot of the masks and acrylics wrong. We had to re-engineer our disposable face shields several
times. I think in the last six months, we’ve probably re-engineered them 3 times, depending on
customer feedback, the volume they needed and how they were using them. So, it was invaluable to us
to have that safety net to help us transition through this.

Discover Rhode Island
Tell us about the employees on the factory floor Are they all wearing masks, or social distancing?

Tracey Beck
They’re all six feet apart or more. We’re lucky our facility is very large. When we switched over to
making the masks we actually went over into a different area, blocked it off, made custom tables,
spaced them out, they all obviously, wear masks and gloves. We had enhanced sanitation, and
antibacterial at high traffic areas. We locked down all entrances and exits to control flow and
implemented health checks and temp screening. We were we’re very fortunate because we are
already in manufacturing, my employees are used to wearing safety equipment on the floor so it wasn’t
a big adjustment for them. . They’re used to it, we have to deal with noise, dust, water , depending on
the division, so wearing this safety gear on the manufacturing floor really wasn’t a big adjustment for us.
The bigger adjustment came in the offices, I would say, we had to lock down a facility of 85,000 square
feet. There’s a lot of doors, so again, we were lucky, we have a state-of-the-art locking and key fob
system. We were able to secure all the doors, and no one can deliver or come in without an
appointment. Our employees are all given codes, so if they had to go out for breaks or for some reason
go out and back in they can do so. we have antibacterial cleaning stations at all the entrances and
exits for them. We rerouted traffic flow so employees have own separate entrances and exits. This
enabled us to streamline things, to control temperature tracking better to control more of the safety of
the hand sanitizing, we gave out bottles to every employee of bleach/water solution , soap and water
solutions and spray antibacterial solution so they could help with even more sanitation in their own
spaces. We based everything on the governor’s recommendations and what the local health officials
have recommended for the best practices.

Discover Rhode Island
Well, it certainly sounds like you’re very forward-thinking company and you’ve kind of taken this
challenge head on and made a lot of changes and adjustments and had a lot of flexibility. What do you
see next for the Beck companies? You’ve been on this role of buying new companies Do you think
that’s going to continue?

Tracey Beck
Well, truth be told. my husband is the driving force with acquisitions! he keeps promising me that he’s
not going to buy anymore, that he’s done, but I take that with a grain of salt. So, I don’t know the
answer, he would be a better one to ask. He’s is very good at what he does so I’ve learned to just trust
the method! if I had to bet, no, we’re not done. But what the future holds? I’m not sure. I think that this
PPE division is going to stay and get bigger, become part of our repertoire for the long term.

Discover Rhode Island
It seems like you have a great company, and tremendous flexibility.
It really takes a team and we’re lucky. We’ve got great employees, great department heads. We’ve
always been a flexible company. Every day’s a new day and whatever comes at us, we try to navigate it
as best we can, and try to keep our customers happy, employees happy and be profitable.

This interview was lightly edited and condensed for clarity.