Marlin Ostrander Sr., co-owner of Northwest Fencing in Hamilton, estimates he's strung about 400 miles of every style of fence - wrought iron, chain link, wood, barbed wire, and post and rail.
But fencing isn't the only job he undertakes along with his co-owner and son Marlin Ostrander Jr.
“Fencing is our mainstay,” said Ostrander Sr. “Deck work and house painting is usually a spin off from a fence job. Fencing is what generates 80 to 90 percent of our work. Painting has caught on by accident. We usually paint four to six houses each year.”
The senior Ostrander started fencing when he was 8 years old, growing up on a large cattle ranch in the southwest near Mexico. In 1977, he moved to Montana and did a variety of labor including fencing.
“Back in the day barbed wire on ranches was the main thing,” he said. “At that time no one did a lot of fencing in town.”
He was one of the first people in the area to mount a belt-driven post pounder on his truck, and that was the start of his real fencing career.
Ostrander attended Montana State University and met Jack Lunt in Bozeman.
“He was the grand old man of fencing in the Gallatin,” Ostrander said. “I saw him building fence by himself and worked with him for two years. We averaged about 26 miles each season of barbed wire fencing on big ranches. I learned even more.”
Ostrander took a break to attend commercial diving school in Seattle to become a certified underwater diver. But the draw of fencing kept him interested, and from 1983 to 1988, he worked on wood, privacy and wrought iron fencing for tract developments in Orange County, California.
“We averaged thousands of feet a week on housing tracts,” he said. “That was the big housing explosion in Orange County and I happened to be right in the middle of it.”
In 1988, he moved back to Hamilton and worked for the city water and street departments, eventually becoming the project manager for City Hall. He attended he attended the University of Montana from 1992 through 1994 to get his degree in business, then started Northwest Fencing.
“I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said.
In 1990, Ostrander Jr. was born in Hamilton. At age 14 he began helping his dad and learned the fencing business. He was in the class of 2008 and excelled in welding. considered it as a career, but decided to stay in the valley and take over the family business.
“He wanted to get rid of the business,” Ostrander Jr. said. “I’ve been doing it my whole life and I like doing it. so I decide to stay. He built up the reputation and I’m able to maintain it.”
With 14 years of experience fencing, being a contractor and running a local business, he said he's ready to take the reins from his father.
“It takes hard work to run a local business in the Bitterroot,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed getting the customers the fencing they want and putting the ‘picture frame’ (fence) around their properties. We do all types of fencing, archways, horse sheds, riding corals and more. I look forward to providing the valley with top quality fencing for years to come.”
Ostrander Sr. said he has “all the faith in the world” that his son will do well. His son started running the business in January of this year.
“It is exciting because he is bringing in new ideas like having a website, being on Facebook and expanding the business,” he said. “I’m old school; he’s new school and good at it.”
“He’s top notch at installations, and great with the customer service and interactions. We don’t say we can do something we can’t and if we’re going to be late we call. We provide dependable, honest and experienced draftsmanship.”
For more information call 406-363-6804 or online visit www.nwfencemt.com.