Backwoods Home Magazine

Practicing what we preach

Practicing what we preach

By Dave Duffy

Issue #93 • May/June, 2005

Probably the most consistent theme this magazine has stressed in the 16 years we have been publishing is that the determined, hard working individual can take care of himself or herself. You don’t need government, you don’t need a support group, you don’t need anyone at all holding your hand. If you’re willing to do the necessary work, you can take control of your life and do anything you want. Essentially we’ve been selling good old fashioned common sense advice: to succeed you must simply choose a goal and work like heck until you achieve it.

Work has begun on the old Corner Drug building…

So I’m proud to report that between issues we have been practicing what we have been preaching. We worked like heck for five straight weeks, seven days a week, and built a big, handsome, comfortable office for ourselves out of a 7000-square foot, 40-year-old empty building. I personally had a very exhausting but satisfying five-week workout, shedding about an inch around my waist and gaining a lot of strength by using a variety of power tools to lay floors, erect walls, and drywall. And I’m about as euphoric in my pride of accomplishment as I’ve ever been about a project.

Our quest for our new office began even further back, about a year ago when it became apparent we needed more office space because the magazine and its products, mainly anthologies of past issues, were growing. Our staff worked among ever increasing stacks of boxes holding the books we sell. My children even built forts in them.

So I launched an exhaustive search for a building, and ultimately found this one, the longtime home of the Corner Drug, a Gold Beach landmark, whose owners planned to build anew. I bought their old building, from an absentee landlord who had not been within 500 miles of Gold Beach in 20 years, before anyone even knew it was going to be for sale. And we got it at a good price because I became a determined pain in the butt to the seller and real estate brokers involved. They just wanted me out of their lives.

…and five weeks later we were producing this issue.

When the Corner Drug finally moved we found a building in disrepair because the absentee landlord had refused over the previous 24 years to invest a dime in its maintenance. He had even refused to sell it to the owners of the Corner Drug, which shows how determined I was in buying it. But in five weeks we revamped it totally. We spent $25,000 on materials and labor, but got at least $100,000 of improvement.

Here’s what we did. First, we ripped out most of three decrepit bathrooms and put down new linoleum and fixtures. Then we erected walls that would define the spaces needed to publish the magazine and fill orders. I designed the spaces because 16 years had taught me exactly how BHM worked. Then we laid 20-foot 2 x 4s on the hard concrete floor, a 3/4-inch plywood subfloor on top of them, and a wood laminate “floating floor” on top of that. The laminate floor, whose springiness was calculated to safeguard the backs of my employees and my investment in training them, was purchased at a warehouse sale at a fraction of the price it normally retails for.

We worked like the devil. I operated on the principle that you need only one real smart, knowledgeable person to honcho a building project. That was Don Van Hooser, a 65-year-old carpenter who had helped me add on to my home two years previous. He was the chief carpenter for a local contractor, but I hired him on weekends and paid him $25 an hour, more than he was getting at his regular job. Everyone else got $10 an hour, but they not only worked weekends with Don, but during the week carrying out Don’s instructions under my supervision. It worked beautifully. By the time each weekend came we had completed assigned tasks and were ready for new training by Don.

Much of the work during the week was done by me and Jim Van Camp, one of the volunteers who had helped the Corner Drug move out. He was so effective I hired him permanently as a BHM staffer. In the end we built the best office we’ve ever had at a quarter of the cost to hire it built.

We just took BHM‘s own practical advice and worked hard and smart. And I don’t mind saying that it was the best advice I ever got.