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Merger forms BKDCreative

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As the recession continues to make waves with area architects, some firms are creating their own lifeboats.

Most recently, Buxton-Kubik-Dodd Inc. added to its architectural muscle via a Sept. 1 acquisition of Creative Ink Architects LLC.

With the purchase, Buxton-Kubik-Dodd increased its employee count to eight, adding Creative Ink founder Bob Stockdale as a principal architect, as well as company equipment and software. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Creative Ink had shrunk from a staff of 14 in early 2008 to Stockdale as the sole employee at the time of the sale. The firm’s Galloway Village building, 4064 S. Lone Pine Ave., was not part of the deal, Stockdale said, noting the 4,400-square-foot space has been for sale about a year.

The deal produces a name change to BKDCreative and adds architectural weight to a firm that is known as much for its interior design expertise as it is for its architecture, said BKDCreative President and architect Brian Kubik, noting the architectural focus began seven years ago with the addition of Vice President and Director of Architecture Jon Dodd.

“Our firm has really found more legs on the architectural side. And now, we just have this full package,” Kubik said.

The BKDCreative staff at 1531 E. Bradford Parkway, Ste. 320, now comprises three licensed architects, three interior designers certified by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification, a bookkeeper and a draftsman. Past projects for Buxton-Kubik-Dodd include Silver Dollar City’s River Blast attraction, the Springfield-Greene County Park Central Library and Southwest Community Bank.

Stockdale, who’s worked in architecture 30 years and got his start at St. Louis-based HOK Architects Inc., brings to the firm experience on such projects as 10 Bass Pro Shops stores, including in Branson and Columbia, Jordan Valley Car Park and Orthopaedic Specialists of Springfield. Projects Creative Ink already had in the works include Naturally Iowa Inc.’s bottling facility at Deer Lake, and additions to Schweitzer United Methodist and Seminole Baptist churches.

While Kubik declined to disclose billings, he expects an increase of 25 percent by year-end, compared to 2009, not including Creative Ink billings added to the mix.

Recession leaves a mark
Though Creative Ink has suffered more from the recession than Buxton-Kubik-Dodd – both firms took a hit when the economy began to go south.

Buxton-Kubik-Dodd had 20 employees in February 2008, according to Springfield Business Journal research. By the end of 2008, Kubik said the company had laid off an architect and interior designer. Other staffers were lost to attrition, he said.

“We probably grew too fast,” he said. “We took the school of hard knocks and learned that’s not a good way to grow.”

Buxton-Kubik-Dodd began looking internally to find efficiencies, renegotiating its Bradford Place office condo lease and finding other savings.

“We cut our overhead and asked a lot more from ourselves and our employees,” Dodd said. “Our people stepped up and took ownership.”

Other architectural firms were doing the same. At H Design Group, money set aside during the boom in 2007 and early 2008 served as a rainy day fund to help the 13-employee firm weather the tough times, said architect and principal Brent Stevens.

“We used that down time to become a lot more efficient,” Stevens said. “We put together a library of details we can use from project to project.”

While many firms were cutting costs and scrambling for work, Nathan Rapp and Eric Albers decided to form their own firm, Insight Design Architects. Both lost their jobs at Creative Ink last October and had unsuccessful job searches.

“We followed up with some clients and starting picking up some business,” Rapp said. “We worked on a couple of Bass Pro Shops remodels, and now we’re working on some new stores as well.”

In May, the Insight Design startup secured a job after flooding resulted in the temporary closing of Bass Pro Shops in Nashville, Tenn.

“The store was about 3-feet deep in water, and we were able to respond pretty quickly,” Albers said, noting the store is expected to reopen in late September.

Rebuilding on strengths
Rapp and Albers are still exploring ways to reach new customers, Rapp said, but they’ve found success tapping social networking sites.

“It’s a really good way to keep clients we’ve worked with in the past aware of our situation and that we’re still out there,” he said.

In the case of the established firms, both Stevens and Kubik think their businesses are stronger because of lessons learned during the recession. Now, they say, they’re on their ways to rebuilding.

Stevens said H Design continues to diversify its portfolio, noting a broader range of experience comes in handy when only certain types of projects are moving forward.

“Recently, we’ve seen a bigger amount of public sector work – schools, banks, HUD projects – so we made a push in all those sectors,” he said, adding that firm members are working the phones more. “We’re buying lots of lunches.”

Stockdale said some of Creative Ink’s past clients might feel more comfortable coming into the BKDCreative fold.

“It was no mystery there were layoffs, and now with a new firm, we can go forward boldly with a clear message and plan,” Stockdale said. “Creative Ink survived, and Bob’s well and good.”[[In-content Ad]]

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