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Freeland firm helps stores show goods
By JENNIFER CONWAY
Leslie Asplund and Lynn Wellman got their saws spinning on Whidbey in 1975.
One of their first collaborations was a roll top breadbox. The breadbox gained popularity, and was featured in Sunset magazine in 1976, Wellman said.
Asplund and Wellman began their woodworking business as L&L Woodcraft, but in 1985 changed the name to Peak Manufacturing Co.
Peaks gray, large metal building is set back on Main Street in Freeland, partially hidden from the road behind McQueens Whidbey Marine & Auto Supply.
Asplund and Wellman share a modest office perched upstairs in Peaks building, where a window in the wall looks down at production.
The muffled whirring of saws and construction trickles through the insulated window.
Wellman explained they had started their business in a sparse, wooden building a few hundred feet away from the current one. When they outgrew the 800-square-foot shop, Peak moved into the 10,000-square-foot building it occupies now.
Asplund and Wellman said Peak has completed a wide variety of projects, but is primarily known for designing and building store fixtures, cabinets and commercial casework.
With approximately 20 employees, Wellman says Peak works with customers to design an item that fits their needs.
Wellman says usually a customer has an idea for something, but it needs to be altered for practicality purposes.
On Whidbey Island, Peak has done projects for private homes, Payless Foods and Video, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, Linds Freeland Pharmacy, Linds Jewelry, Linds Langley Drug, Interwest Bank (now Pacific Northwest Bank) and Langley Clinic, to name a few.
These businesses now hold Peaks specialty cabinets, shelves, display cases, counters and office furniture.
We built cabinets for a whole lot of people, said Wellman.
One of Asplunds most memorable jobs meant travel to Hawaii.
In 1979, Asplund said, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders needed a swim plank for the Captain Cook VII. Peak designed and constructed the plank, and helped Nichols Brothers attach it to the stern of the ship.
People questioned whether the plank would remain intact in a voyage across the Pacific from Whidbey Island to Hawaii, said Asplund.
The Captain Cook VII made the trip to Hawaii, but later perished in a crash against some rocks.
Asplund smiled as he remembered that the swim plank was still in one piece, firmly attached to the ship.
On a larger scale, Wellman said, they have done projects for sites in Mexico, Japan and Las Vegas.
A lot of our work was local. But now a lot of it isnt, said Wellman.
Asplund and Wellman said operating costs from Whidbey Island are just slightly higher than if Peak were on the mainland. Ferry and travel expenses add up, as does time spent traveling.
Theres not as big a labor pool (on Whidbey Island) to find people to work, who know what they are doing, said Wellman.
Off Whidbey Island, Peak has done many projects, including Barnes & Noble, the King County Courthouse, Booksellers, Wal Mart, Harborview Medical Center, Larrys Markets, Albertsons, KING-FM, Muckleshoot Casino, Regal Cinemas, Ballard Market, Walts and the Bon Marche.
Asplund said the environmental movement to keep projects green is something Peak is pleased to participate in. Customers want to know that the timber used in their project is from a certified sustainable forest, he said.
Asplund said trees are tracked to ensure they are from a forest where new growth is being planted, and environmentally friendly methods are used instead of harmful chemicals.
Interesting substitutions replace harmful construction material. Asplund explained that wheat straw can replace the harmful chemicals used to create particle board, and the shells of sunflower seeds can become a beautiful laminate countertop.
Asplund said Peak has done projects for the Puget Sound Environmental Learning Center and Seattle Public Library with environmentally green products.
While Asplund is a resident of Freeland, Wellman resided on Whidbey Island for 28 years before recently deciding to move to Edmonds.
The commute isnt bad, Wellman said with a smile.
Wellman pulled up his blinds to reveal a panoramic landscape of the Olympic mountains.
Besides, Ive got the best view in town, he said.