The month of March marks 35 years that Cooper Electric has been serving the community of Prineville.
In 1970, Norm and Dorothy Cooper bought the building on 690 N. Main St. in Prineville, which had been previously an Assembly of God Church built by Meridith Gallagan in 1943. The building had many other purposes throughout the years before Coopers bought it.
"I remember in 1976 coming down here and watching a boxing match," recalls owner and manager Jared Cooper.
He added that it was temporarily a boxing ring, and shortly afterwards, it went back to being a church. In the 1980s, Cooper was a union electrician, and times were tough. He traveled a great deal for work, including Colorado, Alaska, New York and California to find work. He eventually came back to work as an electrician in the mills in Prineville.
In 1986, Cooper decided to take the old building and turn it into a shop. They made some adjustments to turn it into a business and opened in March 1986.
"He hung out a shingle, and we have actually been doing that ever since. We have been blessed with lots of good work and good energy from the people in the community and good support," said Jared.
He added that they have always been a union contractor, and they are the only union contractor based in Crook County. Originally, Jared went to college and received a biology degree. His father desired him to have a white-collar job. He worked for a time in his field but wasn't making a great living.
"He said, well you can never raise a family on that salary they are giving you, and I need some help over here," Jared remembers of the time his father asked him to work for him in the family business.
Originally, he resisted, even though he was offered a new car as part of the deal. He began helping in the summers, and during one job, Norm fell off a pole on Quail Valley Ranch and broke both legs and his back. Norm hired some help, but Jared said that if he would buy a bucket truck, he would work for him.
"I am not going up any more poles—not after watching you fall down."
Jared returned in 1998 to Cooper Electric. Norm Cooper passed away in 2000 of ALS, and it was just Dorothy and himself. They were still union, so they called the union for help. His apprenticeship instructor answered the call and worked for them for 20 years.
Things grew for a time, and in 2008 during the recession, things were tough. Eventually, construction came back, and business began to pick up. Jared smiled when describing the jobs that they took in.
"Anything that had wires in it," he said. "In fact, I had a radio ad at one point that said that, because we would do appliance repair and whatever Prineville would pay us to do is what we would do."
They have got away from appliance repair, as there are plenty of appliance repair professionals. They also are a pump distributor. Jared shared that he has been in two-thirds of the houses in the community, because they also do residential service calls.
Currently, they wire everything from high-tech machines to construction and new buildings to everything in between. Their staff consists of three journeyman, one apprentice and one high school intern, in addition to their office staff.
"A lot of the stuff that we work on doesn't have plans. We don't get any wiring diagrams, and a lot of times people have lost them from the machines or from the buildings."
Everything they touch is fire life safety. He pointed out that they have had projects handed over in a bag. They have to do a lot of service changes, from damage from loose aluminum conductors that have been sitting for 30 years untouched and are loose.
Currently, they are seeing shortages during the pandemic. They are seeing shortages in breakers, PVC pipe and copper.
"Things are really kind of weird right now. We shut down for only four weeks."
Jared emphasized that they have fun as a team at work.
"We have fun, we love what we do—all of us.
"The worst feeling in the world for us, is when you can't figure out what's wrong, and the best feeling in the world is when you do, and you fix it. There are different kinds of electricians—there are installers and there are electricians."
Cooper Electric did an outside remodel in the last couple of years, including new insulation, gutters, siding and some new trees. Jared said that he particularly likes the sign, with electric galvanized rigid steel that is holding the sign. They also sell retail to the public, in addition to service work.
"Slowly, we have been able to basically stock our service repair parts in here. That is what I do—that is my whole magic. The things that we use, we have on our shelf. The things that we don't use, we don't have on our shelf."
The first 14 to 15 years of the business, they offered UPS shipping. He said that they still have customers come in and ask about UPS.
"It's been a jolly romp, 35 years of watching this whole thing go," Jared concluded.
Residential, commercial, industrial contracting and electrical retail
Owner and manager: Jared Cooper
690 N. Main St.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.