Our own entrepreneur of the year
First came the great news late last summer that Indian River Magazine had been named for best overall writing by the Florida Magazine Association.
Then a few weeks ago we learned that our very own associate publisher, Allen Osteen, had been named entrepreneur of the year by Indian River State College Foundation. The foundation cited both his accomplishments as a lumberman and his contributions to Treasure Coast communities through his involvement with Indian River Magazine and its sister publications.
Besides his role as co-owner of our humble publishing enterprise, Allen also is co-owner and chief executive officer of East Coast Lumber & Supply Co. and is a partner in another lumber company in Lakeland. East Coast Lumber was started by Allen’s family in 1902, growing from a small facility in Eau Gallie to operations today in Stuart, Fort Pierce, Vero Beach, Melbourne and Cocoa Beach. Allen, who grew up on the Treasure Coast, represents the fourth-generation in his family to run the company.
With an accounting degree from Tulane University and a few years of experience working as a clothing buyer for Stein Mart on his resume, Allen returned to Fort Pierce in 1989 to help run East Coast as the health of his father, Paul Osteen, declined. With cousin and business partner, Don Osteen, Allen expanded the company to what it is today, weathering the invasion of big box competitors like Home Depot and Lowe’s and various Florida cyclical housing downturns.
By now, you know my often-told story of growing up with Allen and successfully pitching him the idea a dozen years ago of going into the magazine business with me. I think he was sold on the idea that the magazines would reflect positively on the communities we serve. Besides launching Indian River, we also have expanded over the years to publish Port St. Lucie Magazine, Fort Pierce Magazine, the St. Lucie Travel Guide, the Sunrise Theatre playbill and the Emerson Center program.
It hasn’t always been easy. Shortly after our launch, we encountered the recession of 2008, which like other Florida businesses we began feeling as early as 2007. It took a great deal of resolve and fortitude but we made it through, thanks to the advertising support of fellow small business owners.
Because of the standstill in the housing market, the lumber business was hit even harder during the recession. Allen and Don made the difficult decision to close or sell their truss plants, all while keeping their various lumber companies going. But as successful entrepreneurs, they also saw an opportunity in a time of challenge.
Seeing a drop in orders from contractors building houses and commercial buildings, they came upon the idea of partnering with Ace Hardware to create a store at their Fort Pierce location that would also cater to homeowners and handymen. They also added the Ace Hardware feature to their Cocoa Beach location.
Today, on some afternoons, it’s hard to find a spot in the parking lot of the Fort Pierce store because of all the customers, many of whom are undoubtedly pulling up to shop because they don’t want to hear the beeping sound of forklifts in shopping aisles and they’d prefer to shop with a locally owned company instead of a national chain.
As a partner in our magazine enterprise, Allen has been wise counsel. His experience figuring out the profit margin on nuts and bolts and 10-penny nails is highly translatable when it comes to running our books.
I could go on, but Allen probably wouldn’t want me to run up our ink and print bill.
But I will add that on behalf of the magazine staff we’re proud of you, Allen. Thanks for your entrepreneurial spirit and taking a chance with us.