About Ray Allen Manufacturing


Ray H. Allen 1907-1990 Ray H. Allen 1907-1990

In 1912, five-year old Ray H. Allen left Stockton, Missouri in a covered wagon and moved west to Colorado with his family. Ray was a “Cowboy” from birth — ranching and the western lifestyle were always close to his heart. In 1948, he and his wife Frankie established a Saddle and Harness business in Colorado Springs, eventually developing a relationship with the Mule Division at Camp Carson (now Fort Carson) providing tack products for the U.S. Army. When the Army chose to relocate its Sentry Dog Program to Camp Carson in the early 50’s, Ray was asked to assist the Mule Division by providing some basic K-9 products. Every K-9 Corps trainee was given a dollar and directions to Ray’s shop to buy his leash and collar.

Eventually, Ray was asked to provide more products for this program and others like it throughout the country. Hence, Ray Allen Professional K-9 Equipment was born, writing the specs for Military K-9 Equipment.

Ray On The Range Ray On The Range

In July of 1977, after years of hard work and moderate success in the K-9 Equipment business, Ray and Frankie prepared to retire. They sold the company to a group of businessmen who brought Frank W. Howard on board to manage the organization. Frank eventually purchased the company and the Howard Family ownership of the company began.

At this point, Ray Allen Mfg. really began to grow. Through exhaustive marketing efforts and attendance at nearly every K-9 trial and competition in the country (putting hundreds of thousands of miles on the company van), Ray Allen Mfg. established itself as the top K-9 equipment supplier in the country.

Ray's First Shop Ray's First Shop

Seeing the need to service an evolving marketplace, the product line began to shift from basic equipment to more elaborate and functional tools. Initially, products that could not be produced in the U.S. were imported from Europe. However, as training requirements changed, they could no longer be met with antiquated products, so, new and innovative products were developed by Ray Allen Mfg. to adapt to the varied and specific needs of Police, Military, Schutzhund and Ring Sport professionals and enthusiasts. Ray Allen Mfg. began producing the “next level” of K-9 training equipment. And through our continuous involvement with training, all products were tested in actual situations. Furthermore, when it was discovered that a particular need was not being met by existing equipment, new products were “invented.” The ability to provide tried-and-true merchandise as well as innovative and unique equipment set Ray Allen Mfg. apart from the rest, and put the company on the road to industry superiority.

Product Line Circa 1985 Product Line Circa 1985

By 1990 Ray Allen Mfg. was acknowledged as the world leader in Professional K-9 Equipment and prepared to move into a new and larger facility. Ray H. Allen had continued to be involved with the company. The Howard family brought Ray to a Police Trials event in the late ‘80’s and gave him a T-shirt that read: “I AM Ray Allen!” There are still stories circulating throughout the office about the size of Ray’s smile while he was wearing that shirt and the incredible number of people that came up to him just to shake his hand. We lost Ray in December of 1990 but not before he lived long enough to see his company reach some lofty accomplishments.

1950's Style Training Suit 1950's Style Training Suit

Through the ‘90’s, the company prospered and continued to provide innovative products to the industry. Our relationships with K-9 professionals and unrelenting work in the field allowed us to perfect existing products and develop more innovative merchandise for use in the K-9 world. That trend continues today.

Today's Training Suit Today's Training Suit

Frank W. Howard’s ownership of Ray Allen Manufacturing Company, Inc., came to an end in early May 2007. We are now formally known as Ray Allen Manufacturing, LLC. We still consider Ray Allen Manufacturing to be a family business and have many employees that have over 20 years with the company. The Ray Allen Manufacturing brand and commitment to building the best gear and equipment for the Professional K9 market continues. In 2007, we added to our Professional K9 family with the purchase of Signature K9, a leader in the US military K9 market. More recently, in 2014 Ray Allen Manufacturing added J&J Dog Supplies, a leader in the competition dog obedience and agility markets.

Ray Allen Manufacturing continues to be the only supplier of working dog equipment with a complete offering of all the products necessary to properly train K9's, including tactical gear. We are persistent in developing new and innovative products for this ever-expanding industry and always welcome new product ideas from our loyal customers or anyone in the business for that matter.

After 60 years in business, our mission remains the same:

To Be The World Leader In Quality And Innovation Of Professional K-9 Equipment For Police, Military, Schutzhund and Ring Sport; Exceed Our Customer’s Expectations; And Deliver On Time, Every Time, At A Fair Price.

Get to know the people of Ray Allen Manufacturing

Ray H. Allen 1907-1990 Steve Cates - Ray Allen President

Steve A. Cates - President since 2012

What excited you the most about coming to Ray Allen Manufacturing?

I had spent the 7+ year’s prior working with government agencies and consumers in the public safety market and liked the idea that Ray Allen Manufacturing not only served that market, but also manufactured Made in the USA products on site. By designing and producing many of our products in-house we are able to really contribute to the public safety market as well as the local community, and this is an exciting role that Ray Allen Manufacturing plays. In addition I believed we should offer more products to better serve the K9 professionals like tactical gear, workout gear and everyday items that our customers were seeking in other places.

Follow-up – You said you worked in public safety; were you an officer or worked with K9’s?

No, I never worked directly in public safety – I worked for companies that serve public safety and government agencies. One was the largest US distributor of American flags and the other was the largest supplier of LE uniforms in the US. In both businesses I was in leadership roles in marketing.

I do have many family members in LE though and family ties to the US military. My older brother is a retired North Carolina State Trooper K9 handler; I have a sister-in-law who is a Deputy Sheriff and a niece that is a police officer, both also in North Carolina. My father, who has passed, was a retired CWO-3 in the Army and my brother-in-law is going on 14 years in the Air Force.

What worried you the most about coming to Ray Allen Manufacturing?

Honestly, as a first time President with a company that has a loyal customer following and history that goes back to 1948, your first thought is don’t mess it up. That was the only real concern – the private equity group and board were both really wanting to grow the company and the team here is very stable and had/has a bunch of talent and industry knowledge.

Who are your competitors?

We really do not look at the market that way; our mission is to lead and when your constant mission is driven by leadership and innovation for the customers you serve the only competitor becomes yourself. At Ray Allen Manufacturing we really only focus on sourcing or making the best and most innovative gear for K9 professionals, we don’t write books, train or sell dogs or hold seminars because those things would distract us from innovating and making gear.

Describe what it is like to work at Ray Allen Manufacturing?

Though we have doubled in size the last couple years, we remain a small company with a small company feel. I know every employee by name and see most of them face-to-face every day. Though we are small, we are very talented with probably over 150 years combined experience in our manufacturing units alone. Our customer care team has come a long way and is full of people who enjoy what we do and the customers we serve. I have a ton of confidence in our team, which includes a VP of Sales and New Product Development that started and grew Signature K9, which catered to the MWD market until Ray Allen Manufacturing purchased the company back in 2009. We have a VP of Operations that was the former President of J&J Dog Supplies and has over 25 years experience in the pet market. And a CFO from Aerospace and has been with us for almost 9 years. Combined our Director of Merchandising and Director of Manufacturing have over 40 years experience with Ray Allen Manufacturing, so they bring a wealth of industry and customer knowledge to us. We also have several active and retired K9 handlers that serve as product testers and explorers for product updates and ideas. We are not one person with a passion – we are a team with a focus.

How do you see the future for Ray Allen Manufacturing?

Again we will always focus on innovation, especially with the gear. However innovation goes beyond the gear and I think customers will start to see that more in 2016. We will be finalizing an ERP implementation, which will allow us to better assist our customers by having better and more relevant data. The new ERP system will enhance many other operations, including establishing PayPal as a payment option, finally processing gift certificates online, faster processing of returns and overall better management of inventory levels to make sure we have the products when our customers need them.

In the next month or so we will be launching our first customer loyalty program. Instead of just being a points system, our program will have a game atmosphere with a leader board and interactive components to it that will allow us to engage our customers more.

We are also working on a new web platform for agencies – www.rayallenb2b.com. This will allow our agency customers to ship to multiple addresses, see our current inventory and see any agency discounts that they qualify for, as well as order history.

Ray Allen Manufacturing has other brands, the before mentioned Signature K9 and J&J Dog Supplies. So we will continue to build those brands in the military and competition agility markets. We will be launching GunDogDirect.com in early 2016 to enter the hunting dog market, since many of our fringe customers over the years have been from the hunting market.

Being a platform company for a private equity company always leaves the door open for more acquisitions. We never know when or what may be around the corner on that front and we have to be prepared and ready when the right opportunity occurs.

Since you mentioned Private Equity, what does that mean for Ray Allen Manufacturing?

We have a great private equity group, so really for us it means more talented resources to tap into and funding should we need it. Our group is much more of a long term investor than your average PE firm and they see the value of the brand and the unique market we serve. As I mentioned before they are also looking to grow us as a platform company and constantly exploring the next right acquisition. Since our group has owned Ray Allen Manufacturing they have acquired Signature K9 and J&J Dog Supplies. Like us they have a keen focus on US manufacturing and the pet and public safety industries as a whole as great complements to our core business.

If we looked at your iPhone or iPod, what music would we find?

A little bit of everything, I really explore all types of music from Eminem to Hank Williams Jr. and a ton in between. If I had to pick favorites it would be Stevie Wonder, Clapton and Garth Brooks; how is that for a mix?

What is the best advice you have ever received?

I have been fortunate to have some great business leaders and mentors that I still tap into today. But the best advice I have ever received was probably more unspoken and from my wife early on when I was working 40+ hours a week, starting a family and thinking of returning to school. I am not sure she used these exact words, but the sentiment was – believe in yourself or no one else will.

What do you do when you are not working?

I have two boys that keep me pretty busy at home. Other than carving out time and activities with them; I enjoy most sports and family travel. I have a passion for University of Kentucky basketball that is a family tradition deeply embedded in me, so college basketball season can get intense. As a family we enjoy traveling to Disneyworld, Washington DC and when possible back home to North Carolina. We have not explored Disneyland yet, but that and international travel are on the list.

What are you hoping to achieve with these Q&A’s?

I will be the first to do the Q&A series, but we hope to go throughout the company and let customers have a bit more insight into who is behind the company. We really only do three or four shows a year – HITS K9 Conference, NAPWDA on the Ray Allen Manufacturing side and one AKC and one UKC event on the J&J Dog Supplies side. We thought this would be a good way for customers to get to know us a little better. Our hope is that this will lead to more interactions with customers either via Facebook chat sessions, or WebEx type video conferences. At the end of the day, it is really just about sharing more with our customers and allowing them to gain more understanding of who we are as individuals and as a company.

The Getting to Know the People of Ray Allen Manufacturing series is being conducted by Exo Creative, a marketing, branding and creative firm located in Florida.