“We’re the largest residential remodel company in Thurston County,” says president and owner John Erwin. “There’s no one even close to us anymore; everyone else has fallen to the wayside.”
John Erwin Remodeling is a full-service residential remodel company, and takes on projects both small and large, low-end and high-end.
“I remember working through the recession of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when we weren’t working every day,” John says, when asked why his company is full-service, instead of more specialized. “So when someone asks ‘Do you do that?’ the answer is always, ‘Yes, we do.’”
John does all of the design and drawing for John Erwin Remodeling – “which is fun for me,” he says.
“We do a lot of kitchens and bathrooms and decks and outdoor living spaces,” he continues. “And this time of year we move into winter storm and water damage and insurance work. That’s part of why we stay so busy.”
The company has won countless awards for remodeling and excellence.
John has a long history in the area. His first construction company, Erwin and Associates, began in Olympia in 1993. He sold his interest in that company and started John Erwin Remodeling in 2000.
“I’ve lived and worked and raised my family here in Thurston County,” John says. He grew up in Gig Harbor, but called Olympia his part-time boyhood home, as his dad had a boat at the Olympia Yacht Club and lived on Long Lake. “When I was a kid, we were down here every other weekend,” he says.
In fact, his father was his financial backer when he started Erwin and Associates, after college. “Most people assumed he had the company and I went to work for him, but no, it was the other way around. I was always in charge,” John says with a laugh.
John Erwin Remodeling employs a team of 12, including office staff and a talented lineup of carpenters and tradesmen.
The company hit its stride about eight years ago, John says, and he’s maintained 10 to 12 employees throughout the recent economic downturn.
Customer service is number one at John Erwin Remodeling, followed closely by John’s carefully thought out systems and procedures.
“I’m very particular,” he says. “I’m all about our paperwork and our systems that we use.”
He gathers his entire team together once a week for a safety and staff meeting. “We talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly, and refine our systems and reinforce what we expect.”
The company does about $1.5 million in work each year and has landed on Qualified Remodeler magazine’s nationwide Top 500 Remodelers List for two years running.
“But it hasn’t been easy,” John asserts.
He says the secret to his success is a lesson he learned as a young child from his mother, who passed away when he was a teenager.
“I was hanging out with a troublemaker in second or third grade and my mom told me, ‘John, you need to hang out with smarter people, because it rubs off.’”
As an adult, John translated that message into: surround yourself with professionals and surround yourself with people who are better at their job than you would be.
“And I reminded everybody of that in our staff meeting yesterday, that I can – and have – done everybody’s job in this company,” John says. “I started with me and my dog, with my dad as my financial backer, and that was it.”
John took continuing education classes in the earlier days of his construction career, to better himself. “But I wasn’t learning how to swing a hammer better or install cabinets better,” he says. “I was learning how to run a business.”
And he’s proud to have created a business with strong, successful systems and people in place. His team is talented and capable – professionals who excel at what they do – and that allows him to focus his energies where they’re most needed.
“At least 40 percent of my time I’m working on the business, not in the business, especially through this economic downturn,” John says. Much of his time is spent trying to increase or maintain profitability without raising prices.
John is quick to give his team kudos. “I’ve got guys who have worked for me for 8, 10, 12 years,” he says. “For most of our awards, I designed and drew them out, but it’s the guys out in the field who are just fabulous carpenters and really skilled at what they do.”
John’s two favorite projects right now – and it changes from year to year, he says – are an amazing, vaulted outdoor living space with a 20-foot swim spa and a high-end bathroom complete with a dozen shower heads.
“It’s like George Jetson,” John says of the bathroom, with a laugh. “They’ve got 12 shower heads in this bathroom, and she wanted them all to be on at the same time.” They had to bring in an extra water meter just to get the volume of water needed.
“It’s rare that we have clients who have that kind of disposable income – and they want what they want and they want it nice. But it’s really nice when we get it,” John says.
That’s not to say that John Erwin Remodeling does mostly high-price tag projects. “Not at all,” says John. “Doing business here in Thurston County, where the combined average income is under $100,000, there just aren’t that many high-end clients out there.”
And that’s worked out just fine for John Erwin Remodeling. John stresses that part of being a full-service contractor is doing small projects. “We’ve always done them.”
John knows there are amazing carpenters and tradesmen out there who could do many projects just as well as his team. “But the difference between us and almost everybody else out there is the level of customer service you get, from our pre-construction walk-through to our walk-through at the end of the job.”
“We look at it as, once we have a client, they’re going to call us back or tell their friends and neighbors,” says John.
John Erwin Remodeling
310 South Bay Road NE, Suite C
Olympia WA 98506