Profiles, V10I2

Keeping It Simple with K-Mar Structures

In 2021, Marvin Mast moved his family to Ohio and opened a new K-Mar Structures lot in Bremen in 2022.

K-Mar Structures has operated in Michigan for years, but the shed industry veteran wanted to make changes to benefit his family and faith. 

“We felt like we needed to do something different for our family on that end,” says Mast. “That’s kind of where everything started. 

“We wanted to try to stay in horse-and-buggy groups, but we wanted to make some changes in the way church functions and fellowship functions were being done.” 

So, after the family moved, he bought the Bremen lot in January 2022 and officially opened in late March that year.

The change has been a blessing for Mast, his employees, and his family.

“We’ve definitely changed our lifestyle,” he shares. “We went from the corporate grind to more of an open, flexible lifestyle. 

“There are still people who are standing behind the counter every day and taking care of things. It’s not like we’ve just totally switched over and are just working from home.” 

BUILDING THE BUSINESS

While the K-Mar lifestyle is simpler and more flexible, that doesn’t mean opening the Bremen lot has been easy.

Joe Beachy, sales manager for K-Mar Structures says that the Ohio lot uses a shed manufacturer that builds specifically for it as a subcontractor. 

“He’s about 30 miles south of here,” he says. “We started this lot and got some barns on here. Over the course of the time, we added carports.” 

But Beachy shares that it takes time to create awareness and trust in the customer base.

“Dropping in a new area where other companies were a lot more widely known, we have to kind of build that up,” he says. “I would say we probably sold 50 percent more in ’23 than in ’22, which I’m hoping we can do that again in ’24.

“You can do all the planning in the world, all the marketing, but then it’s a matter of whether customers are going to come. 

“This is a fairly well-traveled highway here. We had customers driving by. The more sheds we got, the more attraction it created. I would say it probably was a couple of weeks before we sold our first building.”

Beachy estimates that around 50 percent of K-Mar’s buildings on the new Bremen lot get sold off the lot, and the other 50 percent are custom builds. 

For getting the structures to customers, the Ohio site uses a combination of in-house delivery and a dispatch system.

“We do some of our own deliveries, as long as it’s within 15-20 miles, which gives us the ability to deliver something tomorrow if the customer needs it,” Beachy says. 

“We try to be as flexible in that as we can. I would say we have good success with it. 

“Our dispatcher understands what we tell the customers. We try to make it clear to the customer that you’re going to get a call from the dispatcher.”

And the staff at K-Mar’s new lot plans to continue to work toward building a successful business at the site.

“As far as benefits, business benefits and so forth, it’s a little hard to say as we haven’t really gotten over to curve, yet,” Mast says. 

“We’re trying to get established here, and we’re not totally sure yet where our level plane is.”

QUALITY AND CUSTOMER SERVICE

A major portion of what will determine the success of the Ohio location is K-Mar’s commitment to excellence.

“That’s what we try to focus on,” Beachy says. “We’re here for the long haul. 

“This is a shed that’s going to last. They’re strong, they’re sturdy, and built to withstand harsh weather conditions.”

Beachy oversees the dealers and shops in Michigan and the new Ohio operation. 

“That’s what I take care of, keeping them supplied with the orders, making sure the orders that we get from the dealers are buildable,” he says. 

Beachy says that the company’s subcontractors have adapted to its high standards, and he points out that that K-Mar strives daily to maintain that quality.

“They have, basically, a booklet that they can go back to and say this structure gets built with these standards,” he shares. “We work together to buy parts from the same vendors, buying the same products.” 

What makes a solid builder for Mast when it comes to manufacturing K-Mar’s structures?

“Primarily, I’m looking for somebody who has got some labor of his own or some good connections for hiring labor and is able to have a building facility, tools, and wants to work close to home,” he says. 

“I’m not looking for somebody to try to be competitive with what he can make going out to get construction jobs every day, but most of those guys that come to us are already tired of that life and they want something a little closer to home.” 

That dedication to quality doesn’t end with the subcontractors and other vendors. The sales staff works hard to maintain a high level of customer service.

Wendell Miller joined the Bremen team to handle lot sales in April 2023 after unfortunate circumstances left the site without an on-site person. He runs the lot five days a week, Monday and Wednesday through Saturday.

“During the busy season, like last spring, we probably had six or eight customers come on the lot and some days it was a lot more than that, but across the week, average, probably six or eight serious customers,” Miller shares.

Training is another key to the ongoing growth of the Bremen location. 

“I’m not here every day, so I would say (Miller’s) training was probably a six-month process for the times I’m here to work with him, to help answer questions for customers,” Beachy says. 

“To start with, we took him through the sheds to help him understand what each shed is and show him what is available—what we can do in this shed and what we can’t do in this one. Then, help him understand pointers that are selling tools for our sheds.”

Beachy says K-Mar believes strongly in not “putting down” its competition. 

“We take the customer out and show them what we build,” he says. “If the customer brings competition up, we share how we build it, and then tell them to go check out the other people that they’re talking about.” 

Beachy says K-Mar sales staff tries to attend training events when possible.

“Our pavilion and gazebo manufacturer puts on a dealer summit, and we always try to attend that on an annual basis,” he says. 

K-Mar’s Bremen location is also tapping into trade shows/events to bolster awareness of the site along with bringing in more sales.

“We are doing a couple of shows in Columbus, a huge market that’s an hour away,” shares Beachy. 

“We’re just getting ready to do our third year next week. It’s a little over a weeklong show, and we always get a lot of response on our sheds, poly furniture, the pavilions. 

“What we found with doing shows is that the poly furniture is something that you can take into a show and sell right there.”

Every year, K-Mar tries to do something a little bit different for the show from the year prior, Beachy points out. 

“We don’t want to look like the exact same booth that we had a year ago, so, we try to take in something a little bit different,” he says. 

“Obviously, we have no idea what our competition is going to do in there, but we always strive for excellent customer service at the show and at the office here. 

“That will bring customers to the door.” 

As Beachy has pointed out, the K-Mar Ohio lot offers a variety of products, from poly furniture to carports, from pavilions to animal shelters, to its customers.

K-Mar Structures in Ohio has a couple of purchasing/financing options for customers.

“We obviously do the typical rent-to-own everybody else does,” says Beachy. “We’ve been with Heartland for more than 10 years. We’ve had many rent-to-own companies try to come and knock Heartland out, but to this day we’re still with Heartland and we don’t have good reason to quit.”

He says that in August, K-Mar partnered with Upgrade Financing.

“We’ve sold six or eight units through the financing, and it’s gaining,” says Beachy. “I think as time goes on, we’ll probably sell more through that company but interest rates are high. 

“That factor right there does tend to turn some people away from financing, but if you don’t have the cash on hand, you’ve got a choice of that or rent-to-own.

“We have more cash customers than RTO, but we have more RTO customers than financing.” 

K-MAR’S FUTURE

As the new K-Mar lot in Bremen continues to build its reputation in the area, Mast says they will always focus on the basics.

“You always have the principles of business. It applies every time,” he says. 

“Service and quality, those always have to be there if you’re going to be viable from one generation to the next.”

He acknowledges that there have been many technological advances that affect how business, including shed business, is done.

“Some of those things are really good tools, but I never feel like they replaced the good old basic principles of being there, taking care of your customer, and making sure they’re happy,” Mast says. 

“Don’t let that be your runner, your leader. That’s not going to make it happen. It still has to have the human realm, good customer service, behind it. 

“Technology will definitely speed up the principles and make it work better, but it’s not a replacement.”

Mast’s goal in Ohio is to maintain a steady retail presence in the area. 

“I want to try to be the best barn guy in the area, and, of course, the other products we have here to go with it,” he shares. 

“I don’t really anticipate trying to push the wholesale side of it down here and grow it that way. I would rather just do a good job of retail and try to maintain a good level for one or two families to function.

“I have some boys who I’m hoping will take more interest in it in the future, and Wendell, as he grows into it some more, can support his family off it. 

“That’s kind of the idea.”

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