Camerons Products, a Colorado Springs designer and wholesaler of cookware, grills, smokers and other speciality kitchen and barbecue items for nearly 30 years, is moving to a larger location and roughly tripling the size of its operation and workforce.

The company has leased the 65,000-square-foot former Rancho Liborio grocery at 1660 S. Circle Drive, and will finalize its move next month. It has operated for the past eight to nine years in a 20,000-square-foot facility at 2547 Durango Drive, southeast of Circle Drive and Hancock Expressway.

As part of its move, Camerons plans to expand its workforce to about 25 people by year's end. It now has six to eight employees, said Chris Malone, the founder and former owner of the company, which was purchased last year by SCS Direct Inc. of Connecticut.

That purchase is one reason for the expansion. SCS develops and sells toys, housewares, electronics and other products to domestic and international markets. SCS wanted to use Camerons in the Springs to distribute products it was bringing in on the West Coast, Malone said. As a result, Camerons needed more space to accommodate SCS items, he said.

At the same time, Camerons - operating as a wholly owned subsidiary of SCS - is experiencing strong sales growth because of a rebounding economy and because its acquisition by SCS has helped expand the number and types of products the company sells, Malone said.

Malone founded Camerons in 1985 and has designed many of its products over the years. He sold the company in 1987, bought it back in 1996 and sold it again in 2013. Malone's wife, Anne, is now president, and he's vice president.

Camerons' cookware items - such as its well-known stove-top smoker and its stainless steel beer can roaster for chicken - are manufactured elsewhere, brought to the Springs and wholesaled. The products are distributed to Kohl's, Bed, Bath & Beyond, grocery chains Albertsons and Kroger, sporting goods stores and mom-and-pop gourmet retailers, among others.

"The majority of the products that we do are unique to our company," Malone said. "We've created a market for ourselves. That's what we do to grow."

Camerons has seen its ups and downs over the years, and was hit hard by the recession in 2008. It had to slash its staff and cut other expenses to survive, Malone said.

"The diversity of our customer base allowed us to continue in business," he said. "When the time came, we were able to expand back into a broader base. The economics of the business we're in, as is the economics of most businesses, is very fickle. A 1 to 2 percent turnaround in the economy can make a major, major difference to a small company like us."

The move fills a big-box retail space in the Spring Creek Shopping Center, which has gone through several anchor tenants over the years. The space was occupied by Cub Foods, Grocery Warehouse and then Hispanic grocer Rancho Liborio, which closed in 2012. Since then, the empty grocery has been the target of vandalism and copper thefts, according to documents filed with Colorado Springs city planners by Kimco Realty, the New York-based real estate investment trust that owns the shopping center.


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