Follow-Up File: Ironworks sees spark in remodels

Name: Matt Miller

Job: Owner

Business: Paso Robles Ironworks

What he said then:

In December 2009, The Tribune featured the wrought iron designs of Matt Miller of Paso Robles Ironworks.

Since 1997, he has owned the business with wife Tammy Miller, crafting curtain rods, hardware and lighting.

They sell to local homeowners and through their website, Their customer list includes Ralph Lauren, Disney and Hilton.

By offering mid-priced, semi-custom options, they’ve found a niche between the two common sales categories in ironwork: cheap, mass-produced items or expensive, custom-made pieces.

“Several like items can be made more affordably than one-of-a-kind custom items,” Miller said. “It usually takes longer to make the first one than the next 10.”

What he says now:

Larger orders dried up when new home construction slowed, but growth in remodeling has been a bright spot in 2010.

“Sales are down over these last three years,” Miller said, “but we are seeing a slight increase in remodel work this year — mostly homeowners fixing up an existing bedroom or bathroom.”

That remodeling trend should continue to grow, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies. A division of Harvard University, the center researches housing markets and provides information to government, business and nonprofits.

Six weeks ago, its researchers predicted “substantive growth in remodeling spending” in 2011. After a three-year decline, they foresee double-digit increases in the first half of the year.

That might mean good news for the Millers and their two part-time workers.

Since closing its showroom three years ago, Paso Robles Ironworks runs a lean shop, using its website — “primarily a catalog for designers,” Miller said — as its primary marketing tool.

To be more competitive, delivery is free. Local customers who pick up online orders get a discount.

In the past year, the company received repeat orders from design and architectural firms, Ralph Lauren, and Disney parks in Anaheim and Florida.

“We did some work for Eddie Bauer’s headquarters,” he added. “Today I spoke to well-known Beverly Hills designer Lonni Paul about some jobs she has coming up.”

Looking ahead, Miller is cautiously optimistic:

“(We) rely on repeat business and recommendations from satisfied designers, contractors, architects and homeowners to make it grow,” he said. “Hopefully we won’t have to change too much and can look to grow a bit as we all pull out of this slumping economy.”

— Raven J. Railey

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