Below is the transcript from a recent interview I did with Chris Riesen of Insired Closets in Naples, FL.  The interview can be watched here:


Jon McLeod:       Alright, so we are here today with Chris Riesen from Inspired Closets here in Naples. And Chris, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from originally?

Chris Riesen:      I’m from Indiana originally. We moved down here in 2010 and my wife was born and raised there. I lived there about forty plus years. And we moved here because our parents live in Florida.

And so we had an opportunity to come after almost 35 years of being in the retail, home building supply industry. And when that whole industry kind of crashed and burned in 2008, ’09, ’10, that allowed us to … “You know what? After all these years of being married, coming together here for 37 years, let’s move to south-Florida and see if we can’t find a job and make a go of it.” And we did very easily.

And so we’ve been here for eight years, waking up to sunshine every day and just loving living in paradise.

JM:         Now, I’m going to get a little sidetracked because you may be able to see behind me there is a device behind me, and you talked about coming from up north.

CR:         Yep.

JM:         Lot of people down here did … Tends to be cold. We don’t necessarily need jackets all the time. I’m just going to kind of step to the side here. And this really kind looks like a garage lift for your jackets.

CR:         You don’t want to do chin-ups on it or anything.

JM:         No, that might not work. But go ahead, let’s see what happens when you put the clothes away.

CR:         So if you’ve got real tall ceilings, you know, 12 feet tall ceilings, and you don’t have any business being on a ladder to hang those items way up high? Then this is an accessory that is made for you.

JM:         That is really cool.

CR:         Yeah, we love it.

JM:         It’s everything up and out of the way just like that you don’t use that often.

CR:         Gives you total maximization of storage space. Everybody’s looking for more space. It seems like the most folks that I meet, they’re moving from twice as much into half as much. And they’re really focused on trying to get as much yield out of their small closets, or even any-size closets, as they possibly can.

So that’s why our industry and our business is going so well. It’s just, we’re really … It’s like a puzzle. Every time that we go to a job and meet with folks, we’re there to come up with a solution…

JM:         Okay.

CR:         …to their issue. And it can be anything from their garage is packed full of items and everything’s on the floor and they want it up and out of the way and behind doors, to folks that say, “You know, I’ve always wanted this office or den, and I want it more customized to fit this particular situation. And I need lateral file drawers,” or, “I need legal-size file drawers,” or whatever the case is. We can accommodate to … And even other people having entertainment centers or closets or pantries or laundries. Murphy beds. It’s just anything that you can think of that we can build out of this product that’s for the inside of your home, we can design.

JM:         In a nutshell, you create space from space that doesn’t exist.

CR:         That’s correct.

JM:         The northerners obviously coming down, having garages with attic space and basements and … What do you do with everything?

CR:         Attics and basements, that’s right.

JM:         You find a way to make all that fit, to shoehorn it in.

CR:         Yeah, lots of times what you get is generally, Jon, just one shelf in a closet. And so, okay, so I’ve got a fairly good-sized closet, but I’m only able to hang just on three walls at one level. What about hanging two levels? Having a double hang.

Or what about … Where am I going to put my shoes? I don’t want my shoes on the floor underneath hanging clothes. And then, what about a hamper and drawers and on, and on, and on? We can design all of that at the appointment. And then you can see what we’ve discussed in your closet in 3D. And I can move the closet, I can change the color, I can change the design. I can change the profiles, the hardware, everything. And it continues to price itself.

So it’s a powerful tool that we have, our new design software where folks can see what we’ve discussed. I don’t like the idea of trying to email a presentation and you kind of … You’re on your own to decipher what you’re receiving. I like to take it step-by-step and show you what you get.

JM:         So you can do a 3D rendering of their closet?

CR:         Yep.

JM:         To scale?

CR:         Yep.

JM:         Okay. What if I want to change the colors?

CR:         All I have to do is just go to my dropdown box. So, my “colors” side of the software, and pick out what color I want. Click on the color, it changes the whole design and it’s all priced now, to that color.

JM:         Same with hardware or configuration?

CR:         Yeah. Profile, same drill. Hardware, we have a lot of pre-loaded designs in the software, but we have several hardware manufacturers that we can source from. I could put a two-dollar handle on it to a hundred dollar handle on it. On a door or a drawer. And then anything in-between. So there’s a lot of sources that we can rely on to make sure that the client is getting what they want.

JM:         Here’s an interesting question, how much space are you generally able to generate, if you will, when you’re redesigning a closet or a laundry room or a garage?

CR:         For a closet, let’s just use a closet for an example. When you go into a closet, let’s say you just have the basic, standard that the builder gives you, and that’s just one shelf. And so you take that self away that you have hanging clothes and you would like to have a stack of drawer units there.

JM:         Mm-hmm (affirmative)

CR:         With selves above. Okay, well that takes up hanging space. And then you’d like to have another area for your purses, which is shelves. And then another area for shoes, which is shelves. All of that is taking away from hanging space. But by the sheer application of creating double hang space now, then we’re able to, lots of times…

JM:         In some cases, triple hang space.

CR:         Triple hang space. We’re able to create just as much space for clothes, along with having drawer units and shelving units for shoes and shelving units for purses, that’s what you had before. Or even get more hanging space. You’re already getting more shelf space that you didn’t have at all.

But now there’s a possibility that you can get more shelf and drawer space and hanging space. But just why I have it properly designed, and the way I look at it is, it’s like a puzzle. Every single job that I go to, it’s different. I go on three appointments a day, year-round. And every appointment that I go on is different. I could go on a garage floor that morning and I can go on a pantry that mid-day, and I could go on an office that afternoon. And every one of those customers has a different need.

JM:         Okay.

CR:         So sometimes the pieces to the puzzle fit together pretty easily right then and there. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of thought and some study and design work. And then we’re able to get back with each other at the showroom or back at your home and come up with a solution. So it’s fairly quick and easy.

JM:         Now, Inspired Closets as a company represents a national manufacturer and brand, correct?

CR:         Yes, we are a dealer. We’re not a franchise, we’re a locally-owned dealer. We have two showrooms, one in Bonita and one in Naples. We are the largest dealer in the country out of I believe 180 dealers. And they are all over the country from Hawaii to south Florida.

JM:         Okay.

CR:         And so we all buy from one manufacturer that’s based in Holland, Michigan.

JM:         So I’m going to make the assumption, with 180 locations buying at one location, there’s obviously some good price benefit and leverage to be able to keep the price down for clients and consumers.

CR:         Absolutely. I mean, I love the idea of a single-source on the supply channel. So we have full control of what product we’re receiving. It’s not like we’re buying our product from this company this month, and that company next month. And they have two different quality levels, and maybe color differences and whatnot. You don’t want to get into all of that. So we’re dealing with a manufacturer that has a 200,000 square foot facility that’s in-place, that has been in place for probably over 30 years.

Now they’re building another 200,000 feet on top of that. So now this whole thing’s increasing to just under a half a million feet in size.

JM:         Oh, that’s 12 acres just to manufacturer closets.

CR:         For all of these dealers all over the country.

CR:         So they get top priority when it comes to quality of product and competitive pricing, which enables them to pass that on to their dealers all over the country.

JM:         Which, in turn, passes that on to the clients.

CR:         Our clients, that’s right.

JM:         Perfect.

CR:         And we have a good product, it’s a lifetime warranty product, it’s domestically produced, it’s not manufactured overseas and shipped in and you don’t know what you’re really getting, content-wise. We have a lifetime warranty on the product, which I think is very important to say. Where a lot of those items that you may buy or see at a big box retail store, you’re not going to get that.

JM:         What’s the biggest mistake people make when designing their own closets if they were doing it themselves? Say, going down to a big box store and buying things and hanging themselves. What’s the biggest mistake they make?

CR:         I think, for me, and you may remember this Jon, but I came to this company as a customer. And I was just asking if there was anybody that doing it and hiring. I never thought that I was going to become a closet salesperson, or a designer. So I came to this company as a customer, and I went to the big box retail stores. So I needed a garage cabinet. And the garage cabinet at these big box retail stores, the size I wanted, was in a cardboard box on a shelf that was going to take more than my wife and I to get that cardboard box off that shelf, on to a cart.

So I had to get … I would have to have gotten a hold of somebody in sales to help me get this box off that cart. Take it home … Well, first of all I’ve gotta rent a vehicle to get it home.

JM:         Yep.

CR:         Because I couldn’t get this in my car. And then I’m in this 100-degree garage, trying to put this thing together, that came from who knows where overseas. That, I really didn’t have all the tools necessary to put this thing together. And then, invariably, I don’t know about you folks but invariably, I’m missing a screw or a bolt or a nut that … It’s not in the bag. Now I gotta go back to the store and get whatever I need to finish the project.

And remember, it’s 100 degrees in this garage. So I just felt like that’s just not the route for me. I could have done it, I could have saved a little bit of money. I wouldn’t have gotten a lifetime warranty, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to install it as nice as what the professional people could.

JM:         Right. Well, they do it all day.

CR:         They do it for a living.

JM:         And yeah, that makes good sense.

CR:         So that’s the route that I took, and that’s how I’ve become one of their employees.

JM:         Excellent. Now there’s one more thing here in the showroom I want to show everybody, but before we get to that, talk a little bit about what you do in your spare time.

CR:         I am a Rotarian. I joined rotary a little over seven years ago. And I said to my wife before we moved here, because we didn’t know a soul other than our parents. But I said to my wife when we moved here, I said, “I want to belong to an organization that’s made up of great people.” Not just good people, not just mediocre people, but great people.

And I knew about rotary, I was kind of solicited early on from another family member about, “You should think about rotary.” And I just never made the time. So I got involved with rotary, and that’s probably been, other than marrying my wife, probably one of the biggest accomplishments and best feelings I had all my life. So I just loved the whole process of rotary.

And then, other than that, I love to play golf. And we travel a little bit, we might go down to Key West with Jon for a few days…

JM:         Might happen on occasion.

CR:         And I love that. So we’re footloose and fancy free. We don’t have any kids but yeah. Golf and rotary, rotary and golf. That’s what it’s all about for me.

JM:         Excellent.

JM:         So, Chris, obviously we’ve known each other for a long time, we both happen to like wine. And the first thing I gravitated to when I came in today for this was this particular wine rack. What’s going on here?

CR:         Well, it’s a wall unit that can be made in various sizes. And it’s granite that is the type of granite that you can light from behind, so it’s actually showing through. And we just built this unit just to show folks that we can also do some wine storage as well.

JM:         And that’s really cool.

CR:         It really is cool. It’s an eye stopper. Gotta look.

JM:         Absolutely.

CR:         Can be done in various colors, various styles, various sizes. But folks, when they see that, they just got to have it. They just love it.

JM:         That’s cool. Excellent.

JM:         Well, we’ve been here with Chris Riesen from Inspired Closets, and you will see his contact information on the bottom of the screen. Thanks for watching.