By Debra Smith
Thursday - February 17, 2005
With no basement
and only a "3-foot hole" in the attic for the Christmas decorations,
the Munsons needed more space. The
Marsyville family had lived in their house for several decades
and were feeling a little cramped. The 2,000 square-foot home wasn't
small, but their posessions were piling up.
The two-car garage
had room for only one vehicle. Guestswere relegated to theliving
room sofabecause all four bedrooms were being used. They
discovered the solution during a trip to the Seattle Home Show,
where a display of custom cabins and sheds built by a Marsyville
business caught their eye.
like a small house," said Lisa Munson of the shed they bougthfrom
Aurora Quality buildings eight years ago. Lisa
and her husband, Eric, both 43, said they like to buy quality things
and make them last. They still drive the 1981 Ford pickup they
bought when they were first married.
was impressed with the solid construction of the sheds and cabins,
made of solid wood instead of a composite material. The
shed, with its 12 foot ceilings and loft, provides enough space
for the holiday decorations, bins full of old toys and games,
and everything else that had been taking up space in the garage.
That left enough room for Lisa Munson's prized 1978 black Mustang
and a newer collector Mercury Cougar.
liked the shed so much they bought a two-story custom cabin last
year. The attractive cabin, with its loft and covered porch,
will someday house the Munsons' guests. Now it's being used for
the two buildings cost a litte more than $20,000, and Lisa Munson
estimates it would cost at least twice that to build an addition
on their home.
other ones that were cheesy -- they looked flimsy," she
said of similar types of products. "We
thought there was a lot of value for what we were getting."
Ward Holmes is banking on people like the Munsons discovering
his business at the 61st Seattle Home Show, which begins Saturday
at the Qwest Field Event Center. He'll
have a selection of five custom cabins and sheds on display at
the show's Idea Street, a show-case of model homes offering the
latest in decor, landscaping and design.
participated in the show for a decade and even though he has
a store with display models on Smokey Point Boulevard, it's the
home show where he makes a good portion of his annual $1.25 million
people are expected to attend the show, the largest and longest
running in the nation. In addition to the model homes on Idea
Street, visitors can check out the latest home products and services
and attend home improvement seminars.
Holmes, 45, started small in 1989, selling sheds he built in
his back yard and working out of the back of his pickup truck. He
still sells plenty of sheds but he now employs 10 and sells custom
$40,000 cabins as large at 1,500 square feet.
He has found
his niche selling buildings that are built better and constructed
faster than the competition, he said. "We
get in and get out quick," he said. That
helps keep labor costs down and customers happy. His employees
can get the cabins put up in about three days; smaller sheds
take a few hours. "We
amaze people," he said. "People tell me all the time
they've never seen people work like we do."
Most of his
customers need more storage or want a small cabin for vacation
property. He has had customers turn a cabin into a place for
Mom or Dad and says it's a cheaper alternative than adding onto
a house. It's also a cost effective way to add a shop or garden
shed, he said.
and sheds he sells come as a shell, with exterior windows, doors,
Douglas fir siding, a roof and a basic concrete block foundation.
Workers also put in interior walls, stairs and doors. Customers
are on their own when it comes to adding insulation, wiring,
flooring or plumbing. Upgrades, such as a tile roof or cedar
siding, cost extra. Many of his customers enjoy doing the finishing
work themselves, he said.
Like any good
salesman, Holmes is quick to promote the virtues of his products.
Aurora builds its sheds and cabins like real houses with solid
wood, no particle or pressboard, he said. Twice the amount of
wood is used than the typical shed, he said, and they come with
a 10-year warranty.
'You only have
to buy this once and it will last you a lifetime." He
said a lot of his competitors use composite materials like pressboard
and those structures quickly turn to mush if they get wet. Holmes
is willing to go to just about any length to make a sale. "A
lot of companies won't do it if they can't kick (the materials)
off the back of their truck," he said.
Many of our
customers are east of the Cascades or on some in secluded spots
on the San Juan Islands. One
client rented a helicopter and flew in all the materials for
a cabin to remote property in Index. "Our
guys hiked in 45 minutes each way" to put together the building,
A big part
of business has always been the sales he makes at the home show.
Holmes expects to put in at least $300,000 in orders at this
try to sell a few months' worth of work in a few days," he
admits he's "pretty much the small guy" on Idea Street.
He takes pride that all his employees work in house -- none of
the work is contracted out, he said.
At the show,
five building will be on display. The smallest, a 120 -square-foot
garden shed, costs $2,500, and includes a bank of windows along
one wall with storage shelves and bench. The larges is an 800-square-foot
cabin that costs $20,000 with a covered porch outside and a bed-room,
small bathroom, kitchen and sleeping loft.