"My grandfather, Pat Bass, like a lot of businesses, started Bass Equipment Company in his garage," said Dustin Bass, the company's newest CEO. "He retired from the railroad and needed something to piddle around and keep busy, and it went from there.
"My father, Gary Bass, then ran the company full time until about 11 years ago, and then he turned it over to me. But he is still an active board member and consultant."
Today, the company ships its unique line of small animal cages to markets all over the world.
"Most of our items are mail-ordered," Bass said. "We send a lot of our product to the Rogers, Ark., area, where they have a large rabbit meat processing and lab facility."
The company is geared toward the show rabbit industry, the home hobbyist and pet owners.
Production of rabbit cages is a natural evolution for a family that once owned a local rabbitry.
"We played with rabbits and raised them as pets when I was a kid," Bass said. "We sold the rabbitry about three years ago."
The company has two full time employees at a warehouse facility in California and maintains a full staff of 12 in Monett.
"We have one guy in the cage department, five working in sheet metal making nesting boxes, feeders, dropping pans and other products, and three who work in packaging and shipping," Bass said. "Our web-based business has grown so big, a majority of our retail orders come in on the Internet and are packaged or freighted out."
While the business originally was marketed toward rabbit owners, the company has expanded to include cages for other animals such as guinea pigs, poultry, chinchillas and other small breed pets.
"Rabbit cages are still 90 percent of our business operations," Bass said.
China is their biggest competitor, but as many people are beginning to discover, that country uses inferior materials on many of its export items.
"You can set one of their cages outside for two weeks and see it begin to rust," Bass said. "They are our biggest competitor in pricing, but not in quality."
The company takes in about $1.5 million annually and generates approximately $250,000 in local spending through wages paid to its employees.
Bass has grown up in the family-owned business.
"I started on the factory floor in high school," Bass said. "I learned it from the ground up: manufacturing, packing and administration.
"It's been a learning experience," he continued. "People management has been a challenge, but I'm fortunate enough to have people here now that have worked here for 25 or 30 years. We're very family oriented, and the employees are very close."
Like any business, Bass Equipment Company has faced additional challenges in this down economy.
"We've had to start cutting back on inventory," Bass said. "We have re-evaluated and picked our spots to advertise.
"Fortunately, I have not had to lay off a single person," he continued. "I think that speaks volumes."
Bass Equipment is located at 607 N. 17th St. in Monett.
For more information, visit the company's website at www.bassequipment.com. Bass Equipment Co. is also on Facebook.