Custom Remodelers Inc.
Ranked among the top remodeling companies in the country, Custom Remodelers Inc. (CRI) is an industry leader in complete customer service, custom design and financing that exceeds expectations. Owned and managed by three brothers -Craig, Chad and Kevin Carpenter- CRI treats customers as part of the extended family.
“A customer’s home is their biggest investment – that’s why we’ve invested lots of time training our staff to provide superior quality products and workmanship,” shares Craig Carpenter, president of CRI.
Three is better than one
Now with more than 40,000 customers throughout central Minnesota and western Wisconsin, innovative products, quality workmanship and excellent customer service continue to accelerate the growth of CRI. “We founded CRI in 1990,” tells Craig. “My brothers and I are all co-owners and we each play an important role in the business. As president, I oversee the operation as a whole. Chad’s expertise is in financing, insurance and roofing and Kevin coordinates our window division, although we each have our areas of expertise we really do rely on each other to continue to grow and ensure our success.”
All of the brothers draw on years of experience that has groomed them for the remodeling business. Their first exposure to building and remodeling came when they served a maintenance role in their father’s business. “We learned the basics of business ownership and administration from our father,” recounts Craig.
The brothers eventually all came to work at a major home improvement company in Minneapolis. “I was selling siding and windows and then was promoted into management,” notes Craig. “Chad started with telemarketing and worked into marketing management while Kevin served as a direct product factory representative.”
Each with vital home improvement experience and strong administrative backgrounds, the Carpenter brothers set out to do it on their own. After some market research, they decided to concentrate on kitchen remodeling and found a local manufacturer whom they trusted for top-quality products. Financing was also a top priority for CRI and the brothers developed relationships with banks and finance companies in the Twin Cities.
Tightening the belt
With adept experience and a dedication to better service, CRI accelerated until the Great Recession hit. “At the end of 2008 banks sent out letters saying they would no longer finance home improvements, because the banks were overextended, making financing projects nearly impossible – there was no money,” tells Craig. “To us, it sounded like the sky was falling and it almost put us out of business.”
Craig and his brothers pulled the CRI team together to find a solution, fast. “We pulled the managers together and explained the reality; we were going to have to work harder for less money, but they all wanted to stay,” he recounts. “We had to let a few people go who weren’t producing at 100 percent and tightened the belt. In the end, we realized just how much waste we had so we got rid of what wasn’t working.”
As a result, 2009 brought a record year for CRI. “From 2009 on, we excelled,” tells Craig. “We kind of reinvented ourselves.”
A strong focus
Through CRI’s rebirth, Craig says the company’s commitment to customers and better remodeling service is still the foundation of the business. “We’ve honed in on what we do best -that’s windows, siding and roofs,” he says. “We used to do all types of home improvements, but as we grew we realized it wasn’t feasible to be a jack of all trades. Specializing in exterior products helped us be more efficient, which was good for our customers and for our bottom line.”
CRI really makes its mark in the window business, buying factory-direct and privately-labeled products for which CRI has exclusive rights to sell in the region. “Our replacement windows are engineered and built to make homes more comfortable while lowering energy bills and offering a beautiful, distinctive look,” continues Craig.
A talented sales force is an integral part of the operation. A CRI salesperson prepares a design on site, explaining the unique features and benefits of desired products, so the customer can make an educated decision for the home.
The process continues with a contract that outlines the specifications of the project, along with itemized pricing, so there are no financial surprises and the customer understands exactly what will be performed. CRI also runs through specific financing programs to find a reasonable monthly payment that will fit into the customer’s budget.
CRI extends this same level of service to commercial and municipal clients. “We work with many residential customers, but one of our most interesting recent projects is the Chisago City municipal building,” shares Craig.
The goal was to turn the old lodge facility into a more brightly lit event center for receptions and city recreational activities. With single-pane, inefficient windows and poor lighting, the city turned to CRI to bring the building up to par. “We wanted to bring in more light, yet make the building more energy efficient,” explains John Pechman, city administrator. “CRI removed all the old windows, put in sliding glass doors and opened the entire side of the building up facing the lake front. They also replaced the skylights, insulated the building and replaced entry-way doors.”
As the result of a government funded stimulus incentive, the facility needed to be turned over quickly so the city could turn in the upgrades and receive a grant. “We called on CRI because we knew they could turn it around in a quick manner,” says Pechman. “The stimulus also included a ‘Buy America’ clause -all of the products needed to be made in the USA.”
CRI’s manufacturing connections and in-house abilities allowed the company to turn the project over to the city in just weeks. “When people want a single-source for remodels, we’re the clear choice,” says Craig.
It’s also becoming clear that CRI may be outgrowing its current facility. “I see expansion to southern Minnesota and an additional office in our future,” mentions Craig. With a reputation for rapid turnarounds and one-and-done service, Custom Remodelers Inc. continues a 25 year run as an industry leader.
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