Souris River Designs expanding building

People who have worked in broom-closet-sized offices have nothing on the folks at Souris River Designs, many of whom use the customer showroom as their workspace. A much-needed expansion should fix that problem, and it can’t come soon enough for all the employees there.

Dave Lebrun owns the Minot business along with his wife, Sharon. They began Souris River Designs in the spring of 2000 doing remodeling projects.

“And we’ve just grown steadily every year,” Dave Lebrun said.

In 2004 they rented a place by Menards and put in a small showroom, then bought the building at their current location in 2007. While that building is near the Souris River, Lebrun said they were fortunate that dikes in the area protected it from flooding. They were still affected by the flood, however, as the area was evacuated and Lebrun ran the business from his home and garage for two months.

While the building wasn’t flooded, Lebrun didn’t want to take any chances that mold or some other substance had creeped in while they were away.

“We gutted the building just in case,” Lebrun said. “We took everything, all the desks, displays, the doors, the furnace, the water heater, we took everything out.”

That was after totally remodeling the building when they first moved in. Lebrun said it was formerly a heating and air conditioning business, so the entire front end containing the offices and showroom had been replaced in 2007.

“And after the flood we ended up putting in some new displays being we had everything tore out,” Lebrun said. “I thought it was time to update our displays.”

The main business of Souris River Designs is turnkey remodeling projects, meaning it does everything from the initial design to the final construction and all the project management in between.

“We focus on kitchen and bathroom remodeling but we do other rooms, too,” Lebrun said. “And then with our expanded showroom we also sell cabinets and countertops (and) hardware fixtures to builders and do-it-yourselfers.”

The business has also taken on a few new lines of merchandise in the form of walk-in tubs and accessible showers for the elderly market.

Lebrun said they will work on projects in about a 60-mile radius around Minot, and have even done projects from beginning to end before the owner ever came on site. Lebrun said this happens when someone from out of state buys a home in the area and wants it remodeled before they move in.

Except for the flood year of 2011, Lebrun said they have had 20 to 30 percent growth every year since opening. In order to keep up with customer demand, Souris River Designs is adding a 950-square-foot expansion that will double their showroom space and more than triple the office space. The expansion will be two stories, with the first floor used for the showroom and the second floor used for offices.

“The new showroom is going to allow us to display a lot more product,” Lebrun said.

Even though they’ll be getting quite a bit of additional space, Lebrun said they would have liked even more. Unfortunately, the lot they’re on was only so big.

“I wish it (the expansion) would have been bigger if we had more space, but that’s the lot we had,” Lebrun said with a laugh.

While the showroom space will undoubtedly be nice, it’s the additional office space employees will probably enjoy most. They currently have seven people working in the office, but only office space for three of them. Three other employees have their desks scattered around the showroom, a situation that is less than ideal. Lebrun even gave up his larger office so they could squeeze two employees in there. He moved to the smaller office, which fits his desk and not a whole lot else.

Lebrun would like to hire more people, too, but is holding off until they get the additional office space. He would like to add a full-time bookkeeper and another salesperson.

If everything had gone according to plan, the expansion would have been done by now. Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly how things turned out. While the hole for the expansion was dug this past fall, the weather became too cold before they got the footings poured, meaning no work could be done until spring. And then spring ended up coming much later than expected, and construction couldn’t begin until May 1. And then it started raining nonstop, further setting back the schedule.

If nothing else goes wrong, Lebrun hopes to have some of the office space usable in early July, with the showroom tagged for completion in early August.

Although work hasn’t exactly gone smoothly, Lebrun is excited to get the expansion done so they are better able to serve their customers. He said customer satisfaction is always their first priority, and they will work to make sure every customer is happy with the final outcome, even if things don’t go according to plan.

“Remodel work is more of an art than a science,” Lebrun said. “Every project’s different and you run into different issues on every project.”