Business Beat: Craig Allen

Capitol Hardware was established in 1964 and has been a fixture of the Milpas Street business corridor ever since. By focusing on building strong relationships with customers, maintaining an extensive inventory and offering expert consulting services, Capitol has served Santa Barbara and the surrounding area as the premier supplier of hardware and building materials for every application.

In 1972, Gordon Reisig purchased the business, which was then located at the corner of Alphonse and North Milpas streets. He then bought the property that had been Capitol Roof, a few blocks away at 711 N. Milpas St., and moved the business there. Reisig also expanded the business by offering the same quality products to retail clients that previously had only been available to Capitol Hardware’s commercial customers.

Over the years, as the business grew, a lumber yard was added where customers could find a broad selection of doors, windows and moldings, and plenty of expertise to help customers find exactly what they needed. The focus of the business also gradually shifted to high-end residential from commercial. Today, Capitol strives to enhance the customer experience by providing a comprehensive “trade-only” design center offering expert consulting services for any sized project. Many of its long-term clients are professional designers who depend on Capitol’s expertise, especially when it comes to selecting the right hardware for custom applications, such as a special door, cabinet, fixture or window.

Alan Bleecker, Reisig’s son-in-law, joined Capitol’s team in 1986 and has been directly responsible for many of the key expansion initiatives over the past three decades. His vision for providing the pinnacle in design consulting resulted in the Capitol Hardware Design Center, which bridges and seamlessly connects hardware sales with the customer’s project requirements. With literally thousands of possible options for a given application, Capitol’s design staff can evaluate project specifications and narrow the choices dramatically to help the client zero in on the best solution.

“A customer door application may have a large window, making the side rail very narrow,” Bleecker explained. “This means that only special hardware specifically designed to fit in a narrow application will fit. We can not only show the customer those choices that meet the physical dimensions of the custom door, but can assist them in making decisions regarding the many aesthetics of the hardware, as well. This is particularly valuable to our customers when the project involves historic properties, or structures with strong architectural themes.”

Bleecker is quick to point out that Capitol has maintained a strong focus on providing American-made products to its customers. This is not only important to Capitol, but as Bleecker explains, is important to customers, too.

“In the past, it was somewhat more difficult to focus on American-made products due to quality issues, but today, especially with modern machining and related technologies, American-made products are of the highest quality,” he said.

“Our customers are passionate about supporting American businesses and American workers. We feel the same way, and strive to find American suppliers for every product we carry.”

When asked how the changing economic environment has affected Capitol’s business, Bleecker states that the rebound in the local real estate market has definitely had a positive impact.

“We have been fortunate to develop very strong relationships with many of the top designers and architects and builders in Santa Barbara and the surrounding areas, which really supported our business during the recession,” he said. “As the real estate market has begun to rebound, we have experienced a noticeable increase in business, especially from retail customers working on their own projects.

“We are committed to local customers and to the local economy, so it is heartening to see customers pushing ahead with exciting projects.”

The future looks bright for Capitol, but management is continually looking for ways to improve the customer experience. Enhancements to the company website and to the functionality of the design studio are in the works. However, some things will not change, the most important of which is Capitol’s strategic partnerships with local designers and builders. These strong relationships are the backbone of the business, and Capitol is always on the lookout to improve and enhance the services it offers. By soliciting active feedback throughout all phases of the design process, when working with designers, Capitol is able to understand technological changes as they affect the design process, to better serve this segment of their customer base. Capitol’s active communication with customers at all levels directly influences all service offerings, and makes the company much more responsive to current customer needs and wants.

Capitol is also deeply involved in making its community a better place for business and for residents. Bleecker founded the Milpas Community Association in 2010 to improve the Milpas business corridor, to make it a better place for businesses to operate, for people to work and for residents who live in the area. Key initiatives include improving the image of the area, enhancing the visual impact of businesses, reducing crime, making the area safer for pedestrians and motorists, and coordinating efforts to bring more customers into the area. Capitol is an active sponsor of this association and has been a long-time supporter of improvements to the community.

Capitol Hardware’s future looks exceptionally bright. This family-owned and managed business has been a pillar of the Milpas business corridor and of Santa Barbara for almost 50 years. While continually striving to find new and better ways to meet customer needs, it remains grounded in a tradition of customer service, building strong relationships and maintaining a comprehensive supply of American-made hardware.

Click here for more information on Capitol Hardware, or call 805.963.0771.

Craig Allen, CFA, CFP, CIMA, is president of Montecito Private Asset Management LLC and founder of Dump Your Debt. He has been managing assets for foundations, corporations and high-net worth individuals for more than 20 years and is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA charter holder), a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and holds the Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) certification. He blogs at Finance With Craig Allen and can be contacted at or 805.898.1400. Click here to read previous columns or follow him on Twitter: @MPAMCraig. The opinions expressed are his own.