Business Beat: A look into Lortap

Anthony Donato (left) and Richard Behncke of Lortap. - Alex Cooper, Revelstoke Review
Anthony Donato (left) and Richard Behncke of Lortap.
— image credit: Alex Cooper, Revelstoke Review

If you live in Revelstoke, you've probably seen some of Lortap's work.

The company did the millworking for Mount Cartier Cottages, Revelstoke Credit Union, Revelstoke Secondary School, Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre, Begbie View Elementary, the first building of the Sutton Place Hotel, the Explorers Society Hotel, and several private homes.

"We're the largest shop of this type in the Interior of B.C., and I would say we're the most versatile shop of this size in B.C., where we can take on the larger projects and take on things like the higher end hotels or the higher end residential," said Richard Behncke, the shop's foreman, during a tour last week.

Lortap is one of Revelstoke's bigger employers and bigger companies, doing work all over B.C., Alberta and in the territories. I visited their shop in the industrial park last week, where Behncke and manager Anthony Donato showed me around. The cacophony of saws and machinery buzzed as we walked around the shop floor.

Behncke has been with the company for 25 years, while Donato was brought onboard 2.5 years ago.

Photo: Lortap did the millworking for the Revelstoke Credit Union. ~ Photo by Lortap

Lortap Architectural Millwork started as a way for the Revelstoke ski patrol to raise money and was turned into a full-fledged business by Paul Jones, one of the patrollers, in 1979.

"Lortap is patrol spelled backwards," explained Behncke. "It was originally started up by the Revelstoke ski patrol as a fundraising base. When that went away, some of those members that were part of the ski patrol kept the name and started up a small cabinet shop."

The founders started doing small residential projects, but the business quickly expanded. It was bought by construction company Vic Van Isle in 1986.

"They pooled resources so Lortap would have its strength to take on larger commercial jobs. Up until then it was small, local residential," said Behncke. "For a cabinet shop, to have access to the resources of a large construction compny made it a rather unique operation."

Lortap employs 20–25 people, depending on how busy it is, and does about $4.5 million in business per year. On top of their work in Revelstoke, they've done jobs for a number of heli ski lodges and ski resorts around B.C. They've done the millwork for First Nations cultural centres, UBC Okanagan, and several hospitals.

Photo: Val Mathes is one of Lortap's 25 employees.

To keep up with demand and diversify, they're expanding their 17,000-square-foot facility in Revelstoke's industrial park by 11,000-square-feet.

"We've been busy enough in the last few years that we've found the facility we have is too small. We have problems moving material in to produce, and then stockpiling the finished product to move out," said Behncke. "Primarily what we're adding here is storage. Storage for product in, and storage for completed products to stage for shipping out."

They also recently bought a million dollar CNC machine that Behncke said cuts their processing time in half. "It makes us much more competitive but it is a major, major investment," he said.

The work at Lortap begins in the offices, where the engineers go over architectural drawings before feeding them into the CNC machine.

Processing of the wood is largely automated these days, especially for big, commercial jobs. The new CNC machine can cut about 100 sheets of wood a day, cutting it based on the program inputted by the technician. The pieces then get run through an edge bander, finished, assembled and shipped out.


Photo: Lortap's million dollar CNC machine.

The automation helps both the mass production work and the custom jobs that require finer details, like the high-end millworking that went into the luxurious Bison Lodge at Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

"Now we can run full production and still do custom work." said Donato.

It's a far cry from the days where everything had to be cut by hand. "It means a benchman has to be more conversed in computer technology. They need to use computer aided drafting," said Behncke. "You still need the classic skills on the bench, but you have to be aware of the bottom skills."

While I was at Lortap, they had several different jobs underway, including ones for hotels in Penticton, Red Mountain, West Vancouver and Cochrane.

"There's a lot of custom components, not every day items that you see, so that's one of our strong suits," said Donato. "We put a package together and we're able to meet it. We got a lot of positive feedback about those cultural centres."

Over the years, Lortap has slowly absorbed other local millworkers into the company. Anthony and his brother Danny joined 2.5 years ago after their company grew to the point where it either needed to expand or they needed to do something else. They chose to do something else and joined Lortap, getting access to its machinery and administration.

Another new addition is Kyle Buhler, who ran his own cabinet making business. He was brought on board to help Lortap expand its residential side.

"That was a bit of a weakness that we had," said Donato. "We were really good at commercial and production work, but we didn't have the man power to service local. It needs certain attention to detail, and then Kyle comes aboard, it makes a huge difference."

"We are a commercial shop and we are now set up residentially to service the local community," added Behncke. "It's a large goal of ours to service the residential community."

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