OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Historic home rises from dust to become unique showroom

05/03/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Once a dilapidated, moss-covered eyesore, the Caton House in downtown Corvallis has come back to life, with a lot of sweat, tears and effort from Brian and Kris Egan. The oldest house in Corvallis still in its original location, the Caton House has stood on Fourth Street and Polk since 1857, and now houses the only kitchen and bath showroom between Eugene and Salem.

Through its “Orange Spotlight” program, Oregon State University is recognizing Corvallis Custom Kitchens and Baths as an exemplary business demonstrating dedication to community service, sustainability and innovation. Part of the “Powered by Orange” campaign, the Orange Spotlight will feature a different business each month.  This month they are shining the spotlight on the Egans’ unique business.

Corvallis Custom Kitchens and Baths used to be housed in a typical commercial space downtown, but when the Egans found out the Caton House was up for sale in 2007, they rushed to buy it, even though as professional contractors they knew the house was in bad shape.

“One windstorm would have knocked it down,” Kris said.

But restoring such a far-gone property is right in line with the Egans’ philosophy, which includes a focus on sustainability and community service. “We believe very strongly in giving back to the community,” Kris said.

“One of our business philosophies is what’s good for our community is good for our business,” Brian added.

That meant honoring Corvallis’ rich history by restoring the property to its former glory, and reusing as much of the house’s original materials as possible. It also meant a huge investment of time, and faith, on their part.

“We really gave it a year of our lives,” Brian said.

Their work was honored in 2008 when they received the city’s Historic Preservation Award, which they proudly display in the middle of their office. The company has also received awards for their efforts in sustainability. Brian said they do their best to recycle as much material as possible, including donating old cabinets and other items they pull from job sites to Habitat for Humanity’s Re-store. They even added a storage facility onto the Caton House, so that old items can be held until they can be repurposed.

And although the home is on the National Register of Historic Homes, they were able to put solar panels on the back roof, as well as installing storm windows and thick insulation to make the house as energy-efficient as possible.

Kris Egan received her undergraduate degree in horticulture with a minor in computer science from OSU in 1985. For eight years, she was a faculty member, working in horticulture and soil science research labs on campus, before she quit and went to work full-time for Corvallis Custom Kitchens and Baths. But Kris still keeps close ties to OSU, as a teacher for the Adventures in Learning summer program, and as a lecturer for the Academy of Life Long Learning.

Kris says her time at OSU has directly benefited the business. She learned important employee relation skills while running a lab at OSU, and her computer science degree has come in handy as well. And her continued connection to the university also helps, she said.

“It challenges me to keep thinking and learning,” she said.

While Brian Egan isn’t a graduate of OSU, he also has a close relationship with the university.  He is a guest lecturer with the kitchens and bath planning class through the Department of Human Design and Environment at OSU.  The classes also come to the store on field trips.

“They get to talk to a graduate from their program,” Brian said, because the shop has had six interns from OSU, three of whom ended up working for the Egans, including designer Heather VanEyk.

“We’ve really had good luck with interns from OSU,” Brian said. “They tend to be very energetic. We get the cream of the crop.”

Showroom manager Leita Grant has her own OSU connections. She’s a master gardener through OSU Extension, and one of her sons is a graduate of the College of Business, and works in Student Health Services on campus.

When the Egans aren’t hosting OSU job shadows or out creating beautiful kitchens and bathrooms, they’re volunteering their time with organizations including Kiwanis, the Madison Avenue Task Force and Corvallis Parks and Recreation.

The Egans say the recession has been tough to weather, but they recently got a serious ego boost when they were named an Austin Family Business of the Year in their size category.

“It meant so much to us,” Kris said. “It was a huge pat on the back, and validation that we’re doing a good job.

Corvallis Custom Kitchens and Baths is located at 602 N.W. Fourth St. in Corvallis. For more information see www.cckb.biz

The business is among nearly 200 organizations listed at “Powered by Orange Businesses” on the poweredbyorange.com website. Powered by Orange Businesses are owned by an OSU alumnus, have many alumni working there, or are friends or supporters of the university. A Powered by Orange Business drives innovation, supports economic growth and serves the community.

Businesses can be nominated for the Orange Spotlight at http://poweredbyorange.com

To see a video of the business, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3mfoLFz_-w