We at Pekel Construction & Remodeling are historic home renovation experts, but about four years ago, at the height of the downturn in the economy, those types of projects largely dried up. Though historic renovations are still a large part of our identity today, we’ve had to find other ways to grow our business. For us, that market is modifying homes for empty nesters.
We started to highlight this segment because of census data and area demographics. Many of our customers are more than 50 years old, have decided to stay in their homes or are downsizing to smaller homes. As a result, 60% of our business is now geared toward repurposing existing spaces, making universal design provisions and accommodations and developing low-maintenance exterior solutions.
These types of renovations include repurposing bedrooms into offices, craft rooms and nurseries for visiting grandchildren, creating barrier free entries, installing universal bathrooms and kitchens, and even adding elevators to existing homes. We’ve also installed pre-finished fiber siding, aluminum clad exterior windows and doors, and gutters with debris guards.
Currently we have a steady influx of work, just fewer employees. For example, recently our design director retired. In lieu of hiring someone new, we just reapportioned the duties internally. But we’re continuing to grow our business with help from our suppliers.
We don’t always have the time to do the degree of research and development that our industry demands. So we rely on our lumber and building material suppliers—ABC Supply, Bliffert Lumber, and other companies in our distribution network—to keep us up to date on new products. They’re the first to find out what is new and different, and we rely on them to provide us that education and that knowledge.
Many distributors will host seminars or multiple manufacturer product expos to introduce new merchandise, but we prefer an individual approach where suppliers come to us personally with products or services that could benefit our company. By reaching out to us, they’re further galvanizing our relationship because they’re helping us be experts at our jobs. This also lets us approach our customers in an educated manner. We expect this not only from our LBMs, but our interior finish, cabinet, flooring, and lighting distributors as well.
For example, recently we were asked to install motorized skylights in a home. My distributors informed me that Velux skylights now come equipped with solar powered shades and wireless operations. In turn, we were able to communicate that information to our client who, once they found out, determined they couldn’t live without it. For us, it alleviated the hassle of figuring out how to wire the skylights.