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Springfield, MO

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A Conversation With ... Gene Douglas

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Tell us about your company.
I started in business in 1983. We have built houses from the ground up. Right now, 100 percent of our business is remodeling. We (own vacant) lots, but we’re not going to build new unless somebody really wants it. … We do a lot of exterior facelifts for people, updating their houses, and interior jobs including room additions. We do a lot of (subcontracting) work, stone work and Hardie siding for other contractors. We do water features, and in the last couple of years, we’ve done an awful lot of restorations where people had a house burn or had water destroy the inside of the house. We have three full-time and two part-time employees. Between me and my crew, we have 65 years of experience. I do the bidding, the selling, the designing, and I do a lot of the work, too.

What is your service area?
I’d like to keep it within 45 miles of the Springfield area, but we do a lot of work in Branson. I’ve gone as far as Clinton, and we did the stone work at the Roaring River State Park. We don’t mind the traveling, but right now, with fuel the way it is, if you can find somebody close, it may be better. But we go where the work is.

What kinds of remodeling jobs are popular with your customers right now?
Because people, at this point, believe that they will be in their homes for 10 to 15 years instead of a shorter period, we are updating, repairing … and because in the last couple of years we’ve had the ice storms and heavy rains, there’s a lot of maintenance and damage to repair. We do a lot of Hardie siding and stone veneers, which are 50-year guaranteed products. A lot of people are spending the extra money for materials that they know are going to last, whereas before, they didn’t plan to live in them very long, so they didn’t mind going for lesser products.

What aesthetic features are customers seeking?
We’ve removed lots of walls. We’ve done at least two houses in the last year where they had a wall in between their family room-dining room and kitchen, and we’ve basically removed the walls so that there are open spaces. Then they go with hardwood floors and get rid of carpet. I have a client that has a two-bedroom, one-bath house, and it can take a long time to sell (that home). They’re going to add on a master suite with a nice bathroom. We’re making a lot of three-foot doorways and redoing the bathrooms so that they’re not tubs-and-showers, but they have benches. We’ve done quite a few exterior patios, outdoor living areas or outdoor kitchens, even. These add another room to your house, almost, without the major expense.

What will you showcase at the Remodeling Expo, and why are you participating?
We will show before-and-after pictures of the kind of work we’ve done. And we’ll let (people) meet us. Because our business is 95 percent referrals, we’re trying to build a new base of clientele. We’ve been blessed. We’ve been getting referrals, and we’re doing a lot of work for old customers. We need to expand the amount of people we know. It’s great exposure. People can talk to the different contractors there and find out who they’re most comfortable with and get different ideas.

Are your clients requesting energy-efficient upgrades?
Yes. But our general building practices are green, and the lumber and everything we use. … We have always put in energy-saving appliances and furnaces in our houses, so the green thing is nothing new for us. It’s something we’ve always practiced, and we really didn’t think anything of it until the last year or so when it’s really become a big issue. With green, you can go overboard and not get a return for your money.

What are some simple energy-efficient solutions?
You can blow added insulation in your ceilings. And a lot of houses haven’t been caulked and sealed around the windows, and that helps.
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