NEWPORT — What started as a hobby in the Coles’ spare bedroom has grown into a business. Cole-Tac now occupies a warehouse on Unity Springs Road. They have four full-time employees, and they’re looking for more.
Four years ago, Dustin Cole, a mechanical engineer, was working for Ruger. Like a lot of Ruger employees, he enjoys guns and shooting competitions.
“I got into suppressed shooting,” said Cole. He had a cover on the suppressor, which fell off when he started firing, and he shot through it. He showed it to his wife, Lee, who was unimpressed until she found out how much he paid for it.
“My wife said, ‘I could’ve made something so much better for less money.’”
Lee grew up in Latvia, where her mother taught her to sew. It’s not unusual, she says; it’s something people expect to learn in school or at home. “I’ve been sewing since I was a little kid,” she said.
“When we first started I was the main and pretty much the only worker,” said Lee. As the business grew, Dustin came up with new products and built the website. He created Cole-Tac, a company that makes and sells specialized accessories for firearms. For instance, a scope protector to keep your scope clean and cushion it from accidental knocks; the cuddle bag, a square cushion to tuck under your arm to stabilize it when you’re firing, or to put under your chest when you’re firing from a prone position; an ammo novel, that holds 120 bullets.
“I’m a mechanical engineer so I like building things,” said Dustin. “I still get to have fun, design and engineer products.”
And, unlike working in metal, working in cloth is fast. “You can design something and create it the same day; it can be done that afternoon,” said Dustin.
In 2016 the Coles traveled to a makerspace in Portland, Oregon, to learn industrial sewing, and the business has been growing ever since. In 2017 they moved into the warehouse on Unity Springs Road, where they now have 12 industrial sewing machines and a CNC fabric cutting machine.
“It’s been a lot of going without sleep,” said Dustin. “The big thing going forward is, really relying on our team. They’re great, and we need more people.”
There are four full-time workers at the plant, including Ty Tomasko, who followed Dustin Cole over from Ruger, and Brooke Beaulieu, who’s working on “boss bags”, which can be used as a prop for a gun barrel when you’re shooting.
Dustin demonstrates how the bag works; by squeezing it slightly, you can raise the barrel by micrometers. “The big thing we’ve found is focusing on a niche,” he said. “Suppressor covers — there are very few places that make them.”
Considering that people spend upwards of $3,000 on their equipment, it makes sense they’d put out a little money to protect it.
The Coles are big supporters of the Claremont Makerspace, too, having donated five industrial sewing machines to CMS. They will also be teaching a class at the Makerspace next week.
“I think sewing is a really fun art,” said Lee. “It’s a talent, and I would like to see more people using it.”
“My deep down motive is, I’m trying to find employees,” said Dustin.