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Backchecking With Steve Coates

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers
Working with wood means more than hockey sticks to Flyers Broadcaster

By Zack Hill

The workfloor of Trade Images
Flyers broadcaster Steve Coates recently sat down with to discuss his "other" job, being a part owner of Trade Images, a custom manufacturer of architectural woodwork and case work.

Q: We hear that you are in involved the millwork business. How did you get involved in this line of work?
"Actually, I initially started in this business back in 1984. I was broadcasting Flyers home games on the radio at the time and I was not traveling with the team. I was doing about 30 homes games a year with Gene Hart, so I had to have a regular job. Around this time, I moved to the Jersey shore and got involved in the casino and gaming business. I was selling gambling chips, playing cards and dice and things like that. From there, I moved on to the slot machine and table games industry with another company. Since I was now involved with slots and table games, I naturally got involved with woodwork. When a person looks at slot machines, they really don’t see any woodwork. The slots are made of metal, but the slot machines sit on woodwork. These are called slot bases. Wood is also used in the construction of casino-type table games, like the blackjack, craps and roulette tables. From there, I got involved with Trade Images, which is the company that I am now a minority owner. This company was originally based in Belmar, New Jersey, and was in the exhibit business. Trade Images made the displays that were at trade shows. At the time, Trade Images’ area of expertise was making the displays for the exhibit shows. They would build, ship and then store these displays."

Q: Where is Trade Images located and how big is the company?
"Trade Images Architectural Millwork is a 37,000 square feet facility on eight acres of land located in Buena, New Jersey, between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. We have only been at our present facility for about a year. Including the front office, we have about 35 employees."

Q: In layman’s terms, what exactly does the company make?
"Trade Images is a custom manufacturer of architectural woodwork and case work. Any one of the Atlantic City casinos can be our client. We work with the general contractors that build the casinos. Combined with our state-of-the-art computer-controlled equipment, we have the ability to handle almost any large-scale project, from casino slot bases to hospital renovations, from hotel suites to restaurants and from courthouses to educational facilities."

Q: Is your business local or do you do out-of-state work?
"We just manufactured 2,500 slot bases for a casino in Oklahoma. We have worked with all the racinos in New York. For those of you who don’t know, a racino is a combination racetrack and gambling casino. Our business is focused globally, but then again there is no restraint on what we can do. We can ship our products anywhere. As an example, we just used LT Lines, the trucking company owned by John LeClair and Chris Therien, to ship product to Delaware Park in Wilmington."

Q: Is this a full-time job for you?
"Hockey is my first love, my real passion. This aspect of my life is a nice bonus. This business was not something that I looked to get into. It was something that just sort of developed over the years. When my broadcasting career evolved into what it is today, the millwork business became more and more like a sideline job for me. When the opportunity to become a part owner arose, I took a chance and here I am. This is a risky business with a lot of overhead. You always have to make sure that the company has work and that is what I do. My primary focus is now, and will always be, on the Flyers, as long as they will have me. I have always loved working for the Flyers and that is what I want to continue doing. The millwork business is a nice supplement to go along with my job as a broadcaster."

Q: Besides you, who are the other partners in Trade Images?
"I became a minority owner about three years ago, but I have been involved with Trade Images since 1989. The four co-owners are David Bird, John Palladino, Mark Bassett and myself. David is the "brains"behind the company. I have known David for 20 years when we were both involved in the millwork business back in the 1980s."

Q: Do you see this company expanding?
"Expansion can sometimes be a little bit dangerous. If you find a good niche and develop credibility in your product, you can run an accurate amount of work through your shop and turn in consistent profits. Bigger means more money and more money means more risk. We are a very solid business right now."

Q: What is the price range of your contracts?
"Our contracts range anywhere in size from $5,000 to $3 million."

Q: That sounds pretty profitable. Can you lend me five bucks?
"Not today."
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