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Another feather in family business' cap

Another feather in family business' cap

Sister, brother run third-generation global business in Moniteau County

May 11th, 2016 by Michelle Brooks in Local News

Abby Arauz and her brother Anthony Arauz are third-generation owners of Arkansas Valley Feather Company and Zucker Feather Products, based in California.

Photo by Michelle Brooks /News Tribune.

The leading U.S. supplier of feathers to the domestic and international wholesale and retail markets is in rural Moniteau County.

To California area residents, Zucker Feather Products holds a bit of mystery.

Third-generation owners Abby Arauz-Chase and Anthony Arauz hope to share more of their family company's story and products with Mid-Missouri in the future.

Zucker Feathers supplies craft stores like Hobby Lobby and Jo-Ann Fabric. Its sister company, The Feather Place, provides impressive costuming feathers to New York City's show business industry, as well as the Hollywood entertainment world.

Their specially dyed and treated feathers have been used recently in Beyonce's latest tour, in movies "The Hunger Games" and "Maleficent," and for the Victoria's Secret angels.

The company's feathers have always been a byproduct either of agriculture or of moulting.

Sources include peacock, ostrich, pheasant, turkey, chicken, duck, goose and guinea.

"It's the ultimate recycling," Arauz-Chase said.

The dye operation in an old saddle shop on the California square is what sets Zucker Feathers apart from its competition.

"We can do custom colors," she said.

Many secrets to the science of feather treatment, which have been handed down from 1872 when Zucker was created, are part of the routine there. It's a low-tech operation that requires the skills of the long-term employees.

"It's fun; every day is different," Arauz-Chase said. "We have a realm of different clients from the muppets to the floral industry to Halloween to crafts."

The business also benefits from media exposure.

When musician Steven Tyler wore a feather in his hat, their phones rang off the hook, Arauz-Chase said. Even movies featuring the bow and arrow have made an impact, as their company provides the feathers for arrow fletchings.

Arauz-Chase's and Anthony Arauz' grandparents John and Minnie Dick opened the Colfax Feather Company in Minnesota in the late 1940s, but by 1963 had moved to California, Missouri, to be closer to their feather suppliers.

In the beginning, their primary product served fly fishermen.

They moved their business from their home basement into the old saddlery shop, known as the Heck Building, where the current dye operation remains.

The extra space came in handy when their daughter, Donna, and son-in-law, Juan Arauz, bought the well-established Zucker Feather Products in the 1980s. The Zucker addition brought a tremendous increase to the second-generation of operations.

Opened in 1872, Zucker Feather Products is one of the top manufacturers and wholesale suppliers of feather products in the industry.

In a time when few women were in the workforce, Minnie Dick earned her private pilot's license, so they could more easily travel to their various operations, her granddaughter said.

"She was loving and a smart businesswoman," Arauz-Chase said.

When Arauz-Chase was age 5, her parents bought Colfax Feather from her grandparents and incorporated it with Arkansas Valley Feathers Inc., which her parents had opened in 1975 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

TIMELINE


1872 Zucker Feather Company opens in Poland
1880s Zucker Feather Company moves to New York City
late 1940s John and Minnie Dick start Colfax Feather Company in Minnesota
1963 John and Minnie relocate to California, Missouri, to be closer to their feather suppliers
early 1970s production moves from their home basement into the Heck Building, 512 N. E. St., in downtown California, Missouri
* 1975 Donna (Dick) and Juan Arauz started Arkansas Valley Feathers in Fayetteville, Arkansas
1977 Donna and Juan Arauz purchase Colfax Feather, as second-generation owners; incorporate it into Arkansas Valley Feathers Inc and relocate to California, Missouri
1980s Donna and Jan Arauz purchased Zucker Feather Company
1996 Abby Arauz joins family business
1997 Abby Arauz opens The Feather Place in New York City
2000 Anthony Arauz joins family business
2002 New offices and warehouse built at 28419 Hwy. 87 N., California, Missouri
2007 Abby Arauz and Anthony Arauz expand The Feather Place with a second location in Los Angeles

Juan Arauz was an accountant in Arkansas, and Donna Arauz had a keen sense of organization.

"They make a dynamic team," Arauz-Chase said of her parents.

As teenagers, Arauz and her younger brother Anthony would count and bag feathers by the hundred each summer.

"It's a family business; we're all in it together," she said.

Each of the three generations has brought their own layer to the business.

In their time, Abby's grandparents grew their entrepreneurial venture from their basement to a full-scale family business.

Then, Abby's parents added their layer to the company, purchasing Zucker Feathers and expanding their product offerings.

Now, the third and current generation, Arauz-Chase and her brother, have expanded the company further into finished products, online marketing and do-it-yourself craft ideas.

The company has developed an array of craft items from party hats and sock puppets to ornaments and quilted children's books. Arauz and her team keep up with movies, seasons and upcoming trends.

In the future, Anthony said he would like to expand their products for festivals and costumes.

With the children running day-to-day operations, Donna and Juan Arauz spend most of their time operating the family's second business — a hotel in rural Panama. The 48-room Las Olas Resort even was featured in an episode last year of "Hotel Impossible."

"It was Dad's dream," she said. "It's a beautiful place."

Arauz-Chase opened The Feather Place in 1997 in New York City, brokering deals between her parents and show costume designers, whom she worked with as a Rockette.

Then in 2007, after retiring from the Rockettes, she opened a second Feather Place office in Los Angeles, catering more to the entertainment industry.

Six years ago, Arauz-Chase returned to Mid-Missouri to raise her family and join her parents and brother, Anthony, in the family business full time.

Anthony Arauz, who has been with the company since college, speaks and writes fluent Chinese, something he pursued in college by studying in the country. That definitely has helped the business and communicating with clients, Arauz-Chase said.

"He lights up a room," she said.

Owning a business with family can be intense, but also rewarding, Arauz-Chase said.

"We have different views," she said. "We're learning how to communicate better."

With Juan and Donna Arauz in Panama, communication includes speed dial on the conference room phone and meetings via FaceTime.

"We're miles apart, but still our parents are so much apart of the business — their history, knowledge and experience," she said.

The only product outside of the fishing ties that her grandparents had was a feather Christmas tree. More than 50 years later, the company still offers it.

Trends and needs change; some products come and go.

"It's a matter of survival," Anthony Arauz said. "We did some research and saw where we were not being competitive and what opportunities we had."

That makes for both an exciting and nerve-racking proposition, he said.

World events, like the avian flu scare and increasing competition in the market, also pose challenges for the small business.

The product should always have a place in the market, Anthony Arauz said.

"It's impossible to get that true exotic look with synthetics," he said.

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