Why AQB?

By Debra Smith
Herald Writer
The Herald
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.

"It's constructed 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.

The couple 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.

The Munsons 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 storage. Together, 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.

"We saw 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."

Aurora owner 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.

Holmes has 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 in sales.

About 125,000 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.

Aurora owner 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.

The cabins 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, he said.

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 show. "We try to sell a few months' worth of work in a few days," he said. 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.

  Marysville Main Sales Lot: 14418 Smokey Point Blvd. - Marysville, WA 98271
Toll Free:1-800-405-SHED - Phone:360-658-9967 - Fax:360-658-3687
Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-5pm and Sunday - 11am-5pm
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Aurora Quality Buildings Inc, Sheds, Garages, Greenhouses-Prefabricated Kits, Marysville, WA