Westminster woman sells playground sets

RECREATION IS HER BUSINESS

June 17, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Patricia Bogan-Avore's life revolves around children.

Not just her own three sons, but every child and child-at-heart who uses the playground and exercise equipment she sells.

"Too many times, people in this business lose sight of who they are doing this for," said Ms. Bogan-Avore, owner of REC-creative.

"They get too wrapped up in making it through setting up the next grill, the next playground, the next bleacher set, and forget that the child upstairs is who they are developing this for. Everything is fun. I don't want to get too serious."

Her Westminster-based company represents several recreational equipment manufacturers and designs recreation areas for customers as diverse as the United States Senate, the Library of Congress and the Town of Hampstead.

In 1983, it was her sons, Christopher, Colon and Sean, who prompted her entry into the recreation business.

After moving to Maryland from Atlanta to escape what she called a poor school system, Ms. Bogan-Avore began teaching a class on entrepreneurship at Frederick Community College.

"It was one of my favorite classes during my [master's of business administration] at Atlanta [University]," she said. "I decided if I was going to teach that, I ought to start something of my own."

Although she had owned a women's athletic clothing company called Women on the Run in Atlanta, Ms. Bogan-Avore turned to her children for inspiration.

"I decided it had to be something that they were responsive to," she said. "I determined my market, determined what I wanted and did my development from there."

Her first year in the business, she represented Olympia, Wash.-based Big Toys. That year, she sold $170,000 worth of equipment in a territory that historically generated about $50,000 worth of business per year. Her business grew from there. She eventually incorporated REC-creative, and added the New York-based Kompan lines and various types of recycled products to her sales portfolio.

Ms. Bogan-Avore's business, operated out of her home on Bird View Road, now has eight employees, and offices in State College and Allentown, Pa.

Three employees work in Westminster. Her friend, former Carroll County Recreation and Parks Director John Little, volunteers his time to her projects while he looks for another job.

Her designs -- which range from $900 to $90,000 -- often include picnic tables, exercise paths and grills. About 2 percent of her business is in residential, backyard pieces that cost $2,500 to $5,000 each, Ms. Bogan-Avore said.

"We do what we can to work with them [customers]," she said, referring to partial payment plans and design projects based on how much money a group has raised. "We give them as much as we can for their $2,500."

REC-creative also encourages groups to install the pieces themselves with a company employee serving as supervisor. Her company is booked every weekend until September with community installations, Ms. Bogan-Avore said.

"Having somebody come in and install it for you just doesn't do it," she said. "You have the first-grade dads working beside the fifth-grade dads. They look at it during the last hour and don't want to leave because it's so beautiful.

"People are so proud of what they do, and kids pick out places that are theirs, saying, "My dad did this," or "My mom did that."

Hampstead Councilwoman Jacqueline Hyatt said those group dynamics worked well when her volunteers set up two playgrounds in about 10 hours in the rain on June 5.

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