When Big Ray's opened in 1947, founders and veterans Howard Cruver and Glenn Miller were simply trying to sell their surplus U.S. Army gear to hard-working Alaskans who needed it at a price they could afford. Fast forward 70 years, and Big Ray's is a trusted provider of cold-weather, protective, and flame-resistant clothing to outdoor adventurers, electricians, oil workers, and everyone else who makes the Alaskan economy run. Now, as Big Ray's looks to the future, they have their eyes set on another frontier. By leveraging the web and Google tools, they're expanding their business well beyond the Alaskan border.
"Online growth is endless. It's just a matter of finding the right audience," says Big Ray's Director of Marketing Deanna Miller. To keep on growing, Deanna uses AdWords, Google's advertising program, to find that audience and drive sales. "It's been a great tool to bring awareness to our brand, both locally and outside the state of Alaska," she says. "The brands we've promoted on AdWords are the biggest sellers on our site." Big Ray's also uses G Suite tools Gmail, Docs, and Calendar to quickly collaborate, clarify, and confirm large orders to outfit entire utility and oil crews. If it gets done in Alaska, it depends on Big Ray's—and Big Ray's depends on Google.
"We are an Alaskan company that knows what it takes and has the credibility to live and work in Alaska,” Deanna says. Big Ray's now employs 85 people, has five locations in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Kodiak, and is realizing 38 percent annual growth in online revenue. For Deanna, their real success is sharing an independent outdoor lifestyle with the local communities. "Small businesses are very important here. People are still trying to live the American Dream in Alaska," she says. Chances are good that Big Ray's will be outfitting those dreams for a long time to come.