Rick Preble built a global business empire making fence postcaps from scrap lumber. Now, he sells $15 million worth of postcaps from a shack with no indoor plumbing!
CORPORATE EXECUTIVE Rick Preble operates out of a Bainbridge Island shack built on a pier over Rich Passage. There is no indoor plumbing. The two "outhouses" sit on a deck just around the corner from the building's main entrance. Inside, a warren of small rooms is stuffed with computers and desks, calculators and extension cords, coffee makers, space heaters, exposed insulation, ramshackle shelves and innumerable samples of the products he sells.
It's hard to imagine a less prepossessing headquarters for a company that had $15 million in sales all over the country last year, with operations in Maine and China as well as here. "Dana and I used to joke about it," Preble says with a laugh. (Dana is Dana Smith, until recently his partner.) "Like when we got it to be a $10 million company. He was working in his chicken barn in Maine, and I was working on a dock with an outhouse. And we'd talk every morning — we'd joke about it." He looks around the office, and laughs again. "I mean, I've never had a customer out here!"