CRW Home Center comes a long way from humble beginnings

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Twenty-one years ago, the current CRW Home Center established itself as a small showroom tucked away along Mulberry Alley.

Fast-forward to 2010, when CRW now stretches out in a 35,000-square foot facility with 19 full- and part-time employees, and owners Tim and Cindy Chambers and their store have been named the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2010 Small Business of the Year.

“A little birdie had said I better make sure I go” to the annual Chamber banquet Thursday at the Punxsutawney Country Club, Tim Chambers said. “I thought, ‘OK, now I know why.’”

He explained that prior to owning the business, he was “on the other side — a contractor for years,” when in February 1988, he opened Chambers Replacement World, a showroom for windows, doors and kitchens at 535 Mulberry Alley, with three employees and a 3,000-square foot storefront.

“Of course, as we opened up, we had done some years of business and had associations with other builders and certain acquaintances,” Chambers said. “So dealing with me, and them purchasing windows and doors, led me to look into other products that they were willing to get through me, and I would use them as installers and for referrals.”

Over the years, CRW has also catered to customer requests for certain products, and in turn could offer service work and installations by referring contractors to customers.

CRW moved out of its small space in 1995 and into the former Trumball Supply location along Martha Street, a 35,000-square foot space more than double the former location.

In 1997, CRW became affiliated with Do It Best Corp., which has 4,100 independently-owned member stores that are in 50 states and 45 countries. Chambers said it has been a beneficial relationship with Do It Best.

“That actually came through a referral from another dealer,” he said. “He was a member of Do it Best, and we bought some merchandise from him. Just in a conversation, he expressed to me where he gets a lot of hardware, and we were lucky to get on board with them.”

Chambers said Do it Best has strict criteria for member stores, which CRW has successfully met. Through Do it Best, CRW was able to expand its line and has the volume such that it no longer incurs shipping costs.

“We can religiously say every Friday, we’ll get a truck here, and the product will be here, if we order it Wednesday,” he said.

Around the same time that CRW joined forces with Do It Best, Cindy Chambers, a nurse by trade, joined her husband full-time as the administrative manager, and Chambers Replacement World streamlined its name to CRW to reflect the years of changes.

“I don’t know the best words, but Cindy is my best friend,” Tim said. “She is my right hand. I have to feel probably that some of that desire was to assist the business grow to a certain point, because I had my hands full with what I was doing. I feel one of her biggest ideas was to see more of me.”

Over the years — and especially recently as the economy has taken a downturn — CRW no longer sees large numbers of sales, but numerous small projects.

“It seems like there is a lot of do-it-yourself going on — the weekend warrior projects,” Tim said, adding that given that fact, specialty items and special orders for customers are strong points of the business.

Also Thursday, Chamber Board President Jeff Curtis said although 2010 has been a quiet year, it has been a positive year for the Chamber.

He cited a larger-than-expected turnout for Groundhog Day and the debut of the first non-Ty Punxsutawney Phil plush toy, as well as the Chamber Choice program and energy opportunities for members through On Demand Energy.

Curtis said the Chamber’s two annual Legislative Breakfasts — this year featuring U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson and state Rep. Sam Smith — gave guests an opportunity to speak with legislative leaders on a one-on-one basis, and he also said a $3,000 grant from PA Wilds enabled the Chamber to post new welcome signs at entryways into town.

The Chamber also hosted a meet-and-greet with new Punxsy schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe; collaborated with Community Action Inc. for a job stimulation program in Jefferson and Clearfield counties; and raised funds to refurbish the snowflake lights. The efforts to replace aging bulbs with new, LED bulbs is ongoing with the help of IUP-Punxsutawney students, Curtis said.