(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in a series of articles that will publish over the next few weeks spotlighting companies in the Knoxville region that made the latest Inc. magazine list of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in America. Today’s spotlight is the second and final article on K&P Remodeling. The accomplishment by the 11 was the point of a celebration earlier this year that was organized by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and sponsored by PYA, the power behind teknovation.biz.)
One might say that Ken Baer and Pattie Capezza, the owners of K&P Remodeling, were flying high when two back-to-back challenges upended their plans.
First, the well-known Toys “R” Us chain claimed trademark infringement on their use of the name Laminates “R” Us, something that Baer thought could be addressed by transitioning the company’s name to Laminates US over a six-month period.
More challenging, however, was the looming economic downturn for the rapidly growing and expanding chain that had five locations in Florida, one in Atlanta, and recently opened stores in Dallas and Houston. You no doubt recall the precipitous decline in 2008-09.
“The economy started crashing, and we had $1 million in inventory and were paying for considerable advertising, but the phones were not ringing,” Baer said. Clearly not someone who easily quits, he now admits, “We should have stopped sooner.”
Banks foreclosed on their cars and eventually their homes. They could not even afford to pay their electric bill. They moved to Greenville, SC and rented a small house to be near relatives. Baer tried selling anything and everything – gutter protection, attic insulation, credit card processing services, and water treatment systems. Nothing seemed to work.
“It was very humbling,” he says. “It was like there was a cloud over our heads. I couldn’t even get a job at Walmart.”
They moved up the road to Charlotte where Baer says he decided to go back to the basics where he started years earlier and enjoyed great success. It was selling windows. With Capezza handling back office operations for his new employer and Baer focused on sales, they helped the subcontractor to Home Depot grow from $35,000 in monthly sales to$250,000 a month in less than a year.
“We decided to open our own business,” Baer says. Home Depot offered either Chattanooga or Knoxville; they decided to take both, supporting 12 Home Depot stores with cabinet refacing services.
“We got to $1 million in sales faster than anyone,” he proudly notes, reflecting on the struggles the couple faced for several years.
Since launching K&P Remodeling, they have grown to supporting 91 Home Depot stores and expanded beyond just cabinet refacing to also offering home organization and countertops.
Those who attended the late January celebration will recall Baer emphatically saying, “In business, failure is an option.” It’s a time in his life that he clearly will never forget. “People can’t relate to you as well if you haven’t failed before and have now succeeded.”
It is also most satisfying that K&P Remodeling is the second company Baer and Capezza have placed on the prestigious Inc. Magazine list. Laminates “R” Us reached number 117 in 2006.