Aircraft Spruce’s Irwin Family - Entrepreneurs Who Are Showing Us How to Step Up and Make a Difference for the EAA Community

10:41 PM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Over the years, I have studied the common traits of some very successful American entrepreneurs – it is sort of a passion of mine. What I have found is this: Most of them start with little, work very hard all day every day, never stop looking for new opportunities to grow their businesses, and most importantly, they possess the kind of character that builds trusting relationships. That last part always translates into increasing profits and long-term business growth.
When I recently was asked by Flying Magazine to write one of my In-Depth profiles on Jim Irwin, President of Aircraft Spruce and Specialty, Inc., I jumped at the chance. I knew the Irwins have built one of aviation’s legacy brands, but now after interviewing Jim, I realize his family - including founders Flo and Bob Irwin - have all the traits you need to be successful entrepreneurs. They built a small purchase of some aircraft-grade Sitka Spruce into a mammoth company, one that has served experimental builders and certified aircraft owners for decades, and in some cases, even generations. It is probably pretty hard to find a certified aircraft owner who has not bought something from Aircraft Spruce, and it is literally impossible to find anyone who has built an experimental aircraft that does not have their catalog memorized and their phone number programmed into speed dial.
The one thing the Irwin family has done right over the years is the absolute bedrock of being successful in business. They have listened to their customers. From a one-sheet flyer, they now have a gigantic catalog of parts, pilot supplies, composite materials, and yes, a whole lot of spruce for aircraft construction. They have also aligned perfectly with the EAA community, attending annual conventions at Rockford and Oshkosh religiously, talking to customers, finding out what they need to build better experimental aircraft, stocking those materials and shipping them fast, without any surprises. This company had the distribution center model figured out long before any of the giant online stores we see today even existed.
It has been a brilliant strategy.
When I went looking for a main event sponsor for the 2017 edition of Airplanista’s annual #Oshbash Social Media Meetup and Networking event, I asked Jim Irwin and within hours, he replied in the affirmative. Because of this sponsorship, the wonderful #avgeeks at AirVenture will again get to plow into an even larger pile of Pork Barrel BBQ’s ridiculously great Bacon Jerky, just like last year. We annihilated 60 bags of the stuff in 90 minutes in 2016, so I am investing Jim’s sponsorship into increasing the order this year.
Yes, this family and this man likes to give back. But this one little sponsorship is nothing compared to what the Irwins have done recently to give back to the entire EAA community:
"Aircraft Spruce and the Irwin family has had a close relationship with the EAA and the Pobereznys since our company was founded over 50 years ago,” Jim explains. “My parents Bob and Flo knew Paul and Audrey well, and I have known Tom since we were kids at the Rockford Fly-Ins. The EAA has been an important part of our company's growth as an aircraft parts supplier and it was an honor for our company to have the opportunity to purchase the Poberezny estate in Oshkosh in 2016. We want to preserve the home and make it available to the EAA to let members tour the home starting at AirVenture 2017. The home is filled with Paul's photos and aviation memorabilia, and it will give anyone touring the home a unique look at the history of EAA and the Poberezny family, along with a section devoted to showing the history of Aircraft Spruce."
That, my flying friends, is what giving back looks like. The Poberezny estate will now be preserved for future generations, to further enhance an already incredible legacy of the man and family that started this fantastic association we call EAA.
So, if you are at Oshkosh this year on Tuesday night, stop by the Press Tent (vectors are here) at 5:30 p.m. and hang out with a room full of like minds, the kind of aviators that like technology as much as they like airplanes. Jim Irwin’s Oshkosh schedule, as you might expect, is nuts, but if time allows, I hope to have him there in the tent for a live interview, to dig into the backstory of why he and his family choose to invest real money into buying the Poberezny estate.
Even if he cannot make it over, bring your business cards and come meet all the people you see every day in Twitter’s aviation community. Full info on #Oshbash is here, and I can guarantee it will be two hours well spent…it always is.

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