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Diverse Group Honored at Family Owned Business Awards


A company that tracks its history to 19th century Austria and another that set up shop in Orange County nearly 100 years later joined a homebuilder, a design firm and a waste management company in receiving honors at the 11th annual Family Owned Business awards luncheon put on by the Business Journal and California State University, Fullerton’s Family Business Council on Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Irvine.

Anaheim-based Ganahl Lumber Co., started in 1884 by immigrants from Austria, won the longevity award.
The company is the oldest lumber retailer in the state and specializes in high-quality merchandise and customer service at its eight stores with total annual sales of about $200 million.

ARD Andrew Rea Design LLC in Westminster won up and comer award. The firm offers branding, graphic design and marketing services to clients that range from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses.

Orange-based MS International Inc., which imports and distributes natural stone throughout the country, was honored in the large business category. The company has about $250 million in annual sales and employs 500 people, including 250 in OC.

MS International President Manu Shah said his wife, Rika Shah, started the company in the family’s home in 1975.

“She outsourced it to me” a few years later, he said of his wife, who remains treasurer of the company.

Shah added that MS International’s operations account for 100,000 jobs globally, including large numbers in rural areas around the globe where many workers would otherwise have to move to urban slums.

Shah told the crowd at the Irvine Hyatt ballroom that he couldn’t imagine getting the opportunity to grow MS International to such a size anywhere but the U.S.

Kinsbursky Brothers Inc. in Anaheim received the medium-sized business award. The company has grown from a horse-drawn scrap cart in the 1920s to a nationally recognized environmental management company that is licensed to handle the disposal of various batteries and other electronic waste from cell phones, computers and other products.

Irvine-based Brandywine Homes won the small business award. The homebuilder specializes in developments in established residential areas and has built nearly 600 homes since it started 16 years ago.

The honorees, along with nearly 40 other nominees and several hundred attendees, also got a look at a key challenge for family-owned businesses: communication.

The example came courtesy of Birtcher Development and Investment Co. Chief Executive Brandon Birtcher and his daughter Brooke, vice president of leasing and property management for the real estate company.

The Birtchers took seats on the stage and engaged in a father-daughter and superior-subordinate conversation. They asked each other questions about various aspects of their business, the effects of family ownership and the expectations they have of themselves and of one another.

Brooke Birtcher posed a question that’s likely of paramount concern at some point for every family-run business, asking her 57-year-old father when he plans to step down from active management at the company, which is in its fourth generation of family ownership.

Birtcher said he believes the worst of the economic downturn is over and the economy is approaching a recovery, adding that he’s “never seen a more opportunistic time” for the family business. “I’m here for the full next cycle,” he said.