Retooling the Garage
WAINSCOTT, N.Y. – Whether off to the beach or out for a bike ride, Susan Hentschel and her two daughters often found their plans delayed while they searched through the maze of stuff in their garage.”It was always cluttered, with beach gear or sports equipment,” says Hentschel, who, with her husband, Robert, owns a summer home in Wainscott. “I just needed everything off the floor.”Like many Americans, Hentschel recently decided to reorganize her garage. With Susan making most of the decisions, the family spent about $10,000 recently to have GarageTek, a Long Island company, wave its magic de-cluttering wand. The result: a garage with durable storage cabinets, a wall-mounting system for hanging everything from garden tools to bicycles, and stain-resistant flooring.”It’s great. Everything has its place,” Hentschel says.With a growing clientele like Hentschel – homeowners who can’t cope with clutter – the organization industry has become big business in the past decade. Last year, Americans spent more than $1.5 billion on garage and shed makeovers and storage, according to Specialists in Business Information, a market research firm. In the next five years, garage and shed reorganization is expected to exceed $2 billion.One reason for the increased spending, experts say, is because an organized garage lets folks park their autos and SUVs where they belong. But making sure the family ride has a roof over its head is only a small portion of the trend, says Michele Savalox, marketing manager for Gladiator GarageWorks, a division of Michigan-based Whirlpool Corp.”The clutter is crazy for them, maddening at times,” Savalox says. “When we reach out to consumers, they tell us they want things up off the floor and they want an organized look.”Hentschel knew exactly what she wanted for her garage makeover. Her husband owns Contemporary Construction, a commercial building company in Westchester County, and they had a GarageTek system installed in their primary residence, also in Westchester. “We wanted what we had in the other house,” she says. “The cabinets are strong and durable, and it just has a beautiful look.”Hentschel says eliminating garage chaos is well worth $10,000. Such positive consumer response is common, says Marc Shuman, chief executive of GarageTek, a Syosset company with franchises in several states and three foreign countries.”People want to raise the level of finishing their home,” says Shuman, who founded GarageTek in 2001. “They no longer see the garage as a dumping ground. It’s an extension of an expensive home, especially in places like Long Island and California.”The garage is the place where people are trying to get more yield for their real-estate dollar.”Says Gladiator’s Savalox: “The garage traditionally is a giant junk drawer for our homes.”But as consumers buck that tradition, manufacturers have responded with two industry models. One is like GarageTek, which offers only professional installation of more than 100 different specially designed components. The other industry model is Gladiator GarageWorks, which does professional installation but also has a product line for do-it-yourselfers.Shuman, whose GarageTek expects revenues of more than $30 million this year, says a typical Long Island installation, which can include lighting, ceiling, flooring, walls and cabinetry, averages about $8,000.Gladiator, whose product line pretty much started the garage-makeover craze about five years ago, this year introduced a ready-to-assemble line of cabinets, which is about 15 percent to 20 percent less expensive than its Premier line. The new, ready-to-assemble line is specifically designed for DIYers, who also can choose from manufacturers such as ClosetMaid, storeWALL and Schulte.”The difference between having a Gladiator system installed professionally or doing it yourself is a savings of about 15 or 20 percent,” says Tim Keiper, co-owner of Potomac Garage Solutions in Islandia. The company installs Gladiator systems and can use components from other manufacturers – including stainless-steel tool boxes and hydraulic automobile lifts – to customize any garage.
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