Small Business Profile: Bathroom Magic gives new life to worn fixtures
BY LAURIE WINSLOW World Staff Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2012
12/27/12 at 2:58 AM
Read additional details from the owners and see stories about other small businesses.
BROKEN ARROW - Jared Ball finds great satisfaction in the reaction of customers when they see their bathtub after it has been reglazed.
The typical response is "Wow!" he said.
His company, Bathroom Magic, was founded by other people in 1984. In 1988, Ball's parents, Douglas and Linda Ball, purchased the business as it was going downhill. They immediately dropped an answering service and began doing all the work themselves.
People liked hearing the owner answer the phone and also knowing that he would do the refinishing work himself, Jared said. That's when business began to pick up.
Customers felt they were getting good craftsmanship, performed with pride by Douglas Ball. After all, the man doing the work was out to feed his family.
Today, the family-owned business averages 35 to 40 jobs a month, with reglazing bathtubs being the most common request.
Broken Arrow-based Bathroom Magic gets most of its clients from metro Tulsa, and even places like Muskogee and Bartlesville.
One day, after Doug and Linda Ball retire from the business, Jared Ball and his wife, Jessica, plan to take it over.
Jared answered some questions from the Tulsa World recently:
How did the economic downturn affect business? What is demand like now?
It actually evened out a little bit. When builders were building a lot of homes, we were constantly going in and doing repairs on damaged tubs and/or fiberglass enclosures. Since the recession, building has slowed substantially and, in effect, our repair work for new construction has slowed as well.
That said, we're doing more reglazing for the folks who flip homes now. Instead of replacing bathtubs and/or sinks and wall tile, they're having us come in and reglaze it. It's better for the flipper cost- and time-wise, and thus more business for us.
We've been lucky. The economy did hit us, just not as bad as we expected, thankfully.
How can a homeowner figure out if remodeling bathrooms is a cost-efficient strategy to help sell his or her house faster?
Talk to Realtors. Ask what they think. In our experience, buyers like looking at a kitchen and the bathrooms. And when we reglaze a bathtub for $325, your bathroom will look new again.
It's easy to drop your home's asking price by 2 percent to 3 percent, or even 5 percent, when your bathroom looks ugly.
It's a little easier, however, to maintain your asking price, and work with two or three potential buyers, when you know your bathroom looks amazing.
I'd say if you're questioning it, it should probably be done.
What's the main thing people can do to keep their tubs and sinks in good condition?
No matter if it is reglazed or not, use a non-abrasive cleaner, and keep it dry and clean.
Sitting water just breeds mold, mildew, and bacteria. That's what turns your caulking black and makes your tub turn dark and dull.
I've seen water sitting around the drain and most of the porcelain missing - just worn away. Water is corrosive, and it will damage your tub over time if not wiped out. So keep it wiped out.
What's the best advice you would want to pass on to other people who are thinking of starting a business or buying one?
It would depend on the type of business, but if someone is looking at purchasing a business that is based on manual labor, I'd just say you can't go wrong when you simply show up on time.
We're honest, dependable and hard-working, but the thing that impresses almost as much as the finished product is the fact that we show up on time. If you're punctual, and work hard, and know what you're doing, you'll be successful.
Treat people the way you hope to be treated, and remember that sometimes the job will be hard - so hard that you may lose money.
We've worked so hard that, in the end, the job cost us money. But we were honest and hard-working, and we did what we said we would do. And a customer never forgets that.
Have you ever encountered a job you couldn’t do, a tub or sink that couldn’t be reglazed or resurfaced?
There has only been one bathtub in almost 25 years that we couldn’t do. Unfortunately for the woman, her tenant had used muriatic acid on the tub over the course of four years. It had eaten over 75 percent of the porcelain, and had eaten through the cast iron and the pipes. I think she misunderstood who she was hiring when she called us out. I felt terrible for her, but there was just nothing I could do.
Have you ever considered hiring more people to help with the business? Why or why not?
No. While there is a Bathroom Magic down in Oklahoma City, the owner is a personal friend and started it a couple years ago. He’s doing great but operates independently from us. We trained him and taught him how to do our business, but as for up here in Tulsa, we will not.
At least once a week we have a customer who asks, “Didn’t I talk to you on the phone?” And when I reply that they did indeed, but we also do the work, they’re always pleased and impressed.
Sometimes I wouldn’t mind having an employee, but we couldn’t guarantee work for a third person. Besides, we actually enjoy our work. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s worth it.
What brings you the greatest satisfaction or pleasure in the business?
Ah, the ending! I love it. People call us, hoping we can make their bathtub beautiful again. After all of our equipment is put away, the bathtub has new caulking around it, and there’s no mess left over, we call the customer in. They come in and look, and it never fails: “Wow!” would be our average response.
They always love it, and always thank us for a job well done. After doing work like this, I could never go back to a job where I didn’t get an “attaboy” every three or four hours!
What are the joys or challenges of being a family-owned business?
Well, the joys are abundant. I (Jared) talk to my mom (Linda) every day, checking on phone calls, bookings or any questions she has. I see my dad (Doug) every morning. While he doesn’t have to come by every morning to drop off my work order, he chooses to so he can see his 1-year-old grandson, Alexander. They’re the best of friends.
My wife (Jessica) has an incredible relationship with Doug and Linda, and part of it is because of the business. We all have to stay in touch, even when we don’t want to.
As far as challenges go, I can’t think of any. We all get along well, work great together and enjoy helping each other. Maybe the only challenge would be not getting to complain about the bosses to anyone!
Owner: Doug and Linda Ball; Jared and Jessica Ball
Date established: July 1, 1988
Address: 6410 S. 221st East Ave., Broken Arrow
Workforce size: 4
Business description: Reglazing and resurfacing bathtubs, sinks, tile and showers.
Original Print Headline: Old into new
Laurie Winslow 918-581-8466
Linda Ball (left), Doug Ball (holding grandson Alexander), and Jared and Jessica Ball gather in the home office of Bathroom Magic, their family-owned business based in Broken Arrow. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World
This bathroom sink has been resurfaced by Bathroom Magic, a family-owned business that reconditions tubs and sinks. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World
Bathroom Magic, a family-owned business, resurfaces bathroom fixtures including bathtubs. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World