Big Al’s: Going strong, growing fast, giving back

Downtown Vancouver business Niche Wine & Art

Big Al’s has used a similar floor plan (about 65,000 square feet) for all three locations, with one major exception – the Beaverton and Meridian locations feature two stories.

Moore said that the Vancouver location had limited office space, so in Beaverton they added a second level (the arcade is upstairs), an adult-only area with a golf simulator, and made the kitchen more streamlined and efficient.

“With each one we’ve gotten a little smarter as to how to use our space,” said Moore.

The Meridian facility is almost an exact replica of the Beaverton store, but with an “improved second-level experience” and an outdoor area with a bocce court.

During the economic downturn, Moore said Kirkwood and Kirkwood focused on investing in the Vancouver building. They remodeled the “Skybox,” which is a private room, to make it more open to the sports bar and make more space available for family dining. They also refinished the arcade floors.

Over the next two years, Moore said the company plans to update the Vancouver facility further.

“We know the economy is going to turn, and people are going to look for places to go,” said Moore.

Big Al’s kicked off an employee stock option plan (ESOP), available to general managers and the corporate team, effective July 1. The decision to offer an ESOP was “a desire to make our senior-level managers invested in the business that they run,” Moore said.

In May, Moore explained, the company closely examined their brand standard to “identify who we are and what we stand for.” Part of that brand standard, he said, is to be “part of the fabric of the community.”

Moore gave several examples of how Big Al’s – and Kirkwood and Kirkwood – are supporting community needs. He said the Kirkwood family (which has roots in the construction industry) is building a new duplex for ShareHouse to provide a home for single abused women, and was instrumental in constructing the new Clark County Food Bank warehouse.

“Al and Sandee [Kirkwood] got the ball rolling quickly as far as fundraising goes by hosting an event at their house that made all the difference in the world,” said Alan Hamilton, executive director of Clark County Food Bank, speaking of the new warehouse.

And, said Hamilton, Daniel Kirkwood was “very significant in the actual building of the facility” by acting as general contractor.

Recently, Big Al’s and the Food Bank, along with 99.5 The Wolf, teamed up to offer a series of “Low Dough Shows.” In March, 350 people paid $5 each to see up-and-coming country singer Kip Moore. All entry fees and ten percent of sales – a total of $2,347 – went to the Food Bank. In July, Lee Brice did a show in front of 700 people, bringing in $6,530 for the Food Bank.

“The concerts have been huge for us,” Hamilton said, adding that in addition to much needed donations, the concerts have made people more aware of the Food Bank. “That allows community ownership of the challenges we face,” he said.

As the company grows, Moore said Big Al’s will be even more focused on how they can “leverage all our facilities for a bigger bang for the buck – do it strategically.”

“The thrill of it,” said Hamilton, “is that someone with a business skill set uses it not just for profits, but also for the good of the community. A synergy develops.”

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