Four years ago we featured Case Design Remodeling–Halifax and Archadeck Nova Scotia, award-winning companies dedicated to improving and transforming the way homes function, indoors and out. Now we’re checking in to learn how they fared during the pandemic.
As it turns out, both Case Design Remodeling–Halifax and Archadeck Nova Scotia have fared very well indeed, due to a combination of factors including the pandemic, which itself has presented unique opportunities as well as challenges, according to Maurice Meagher, President and owner of both franchises.
“We have been very fortunate in Nova Scotia, because the province kept the [COVID-19 case] numbers low, for which we are very thankful, and it has allowed us to be productive,” he told us.
At time of writing, Nova Scotia, with a population of nearly one million (979,449) has had one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 infections in Canada, with just over 6,000 confirmed cases in 18 months, and currently has 60 cases and no hospitalizations.
These numbers have gone a long way to attracting migrants from hard-hit provinces such as Ontario and Alberta. As happens, some of these newcomers are purchasing older homes and looking to renovate, creating opportunities for both of Meagher’s companies.
Better homes for that stay-at-home life
Most of the remodeling work happening in Nova Scotia, and the rest of North America, however, is a result of stay-at-home orders and social distancing. “People weren’t going out or travelling,” Meagher says. “Instead, they were locked down and putting more of their budget, that might have gone into travel, into improving or creating their outdoor living spaces.”
Archadeck Nova Scotia, which focuses on outdoor living, experienced a sizable increase in business. Homeowners wanted decks and patios, or if they already had them, they wanted them remodelled to function better. They wanted retaining walls, screened porches, sunrooms, outdoor kitchens, shade structures, and outdoor lighting, all designed to make them believe they really were on vacation, or at the very least, enjoying a relaxing ‘staycation.’
With many offices, schools, universities, and restaurants closed, families were also spending more time inside their homes, working, studying, and cooking, leading to the realization that their homes really weren’t functioning well, in this new work-from-home reality, which for some shows signs of becoming permanent. Fortunately, Case Designs was prepared to come to the rescue, ready to assist with everything from kitchens and bathrooms to additions, basement renovations, exterior makeovers, and even total house renovations.
Should anyone doubt the two companies’ ability to completely transform a house and make it fully functional for today’s needs, they should look no further than the office on Windsor Street, located in a completely renovated house, originally a family home, which predates the Halifax explosion of 1917.
“Renovating it gave us a firsthand taste of how it goes, and helps us appreciate what clients go through,” Meagher says. Moreover, he notes that house values are particularly strong in the Halifax area, along with a lot of aging housing stock in good locations, so that any work done well and smartly, can add value.
In addition to creating robust outdoor living spaces, functional design-based interiors, and complete renovations, he recognizes the importance of fulfilling specific, unique requirements, which could be anything from maintaining the integrity of a heritage building, to providing eco-friendly, green solutions, or accessibility for people with mobility issues.
In fact, both Meagher and several employees have a Certified Aging in Place designation, and can offer assistance to seniors who want to remain in their own homes for as long as possible.
Solid business practices
But while the recent increase in business was driven by the pandemic, Meagher’s companies couldn’t have met consumer demands had they not been founded on solid business practices developed over twenty years, which include strong relationships with vendors. This turned out to be especially crucial during the pandemic when supply chain issues led to lengthened lead times.
To briefly recap the company history as outlined in our November 2017 issue, Meagher grew up in Port Hawkesbury, NS where he was introduced to the construction industry by two uncles who were builders.
After obtaining a degree in information systems from St. Francis Xavier University, and working in St. Louis, MO for a few years, he was contemplating a return to Nova Scotia when he was introduced to Archadeck, North America’s largest deck and porch building company, established in 1980 in Richmond, VA.
Impressed by what he saw, he negotiated with them to establish a franchise operation in Halifax, which opened in 2002.
In the way that one thing leads to another, homeowners, pleased with the exterior work done by Meagher’s team at Archadeck — Nova Scotia, started requesting interior remodeling, which led to the establishment of a second franchise operation, Case Design–Halifax, in 2007.
The parent company, which describes itself as a “a family of designers, project managers, craftsmen and dreamers,” was founded by Fred Case in 1961 in Washington, D.C. Like Archadeck, it has an enviable reputation for expertise and quality which Meagher has been able to leverage to make his franchises the successes they are.
Both companies offer a proven formula which begins with an exploration of free, downloadable design guides and a complimentary meeting with a design consultant who understands style, respects budgets, and listens to clients.
This is followed by a meticulous step-by-step process, which includes a fixed price contract, and is a process in which designers, architects, project managers, and Red Seal trades work as a team, with the stakeholders, to ensure a turnkey project.
Preparing for the future
Applying these well-grooved and effective practices and processes, Meagher has been expanding the team in the last few years to improve capacity and meet an increasing demand for remodeling which began even before the pandemic.
“We’ve been adding steadily,” he told us. “Even this year we are adding more project managers, estimators, designers, draftspeople and of course skilled tradespeople, to do the work. We still have dependable long-running subcontractors that we work with, but we’ve also built up a good roster of in-house employees – trades people, and project and construction managers. It all ties in with our efforts to provide quality service in a timely manner.”
Another key element is communication. One of the things Meagher did, even before the pandemic limited face-to-face communication, was to invest in cloud-based technology systems that allow people, when they are working remotely, to access all the information they need and to communicate more effectively with team members, vendors and clients.
“Clients’ expectations are very different from when we started twenty years ago, or even fifteen years ago. People have smart phones and tablets in their hands all the time and their expectation regarding access to information is different,” he says.
“We are answering that by adopting systems that provide scheduling portals, tracking monitors, and the key metrics we need to run our business. We have been investing heavily in those technologies and training our team to use them.”
What this means is that a client is able to move more quickly from an enquiry to design proposals, and then proceed smoothly from a selected design to the project start-up with all the permits in place, and with the construction manager and trades getting in and out of the job site without delays.
While supply chain issues, especially during the pandemic, could cause delays, the companies mitigated this problem by planning scrupulously and placing orders well in advance of start dates and checking orders, before going on site.
In addition, more project coordinators have been hired “to make sure we are pushing for deliveries, because the businesses we buy from are also busy. We try to work with the mindset that we are accountable to our clients regardless of what happens with the supply chain. They don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, but we are accountable to them, so we push to make sure we get things done in a timely manner,” shares Meagher.
“We want to be accountable to our clients and improve communication with them, and also improve our internal communication with our team and suppliers, so that is really a focus for us. That, and making sure our team is being challenged, staying passionate, and getting the right training because we feel if we are providing the right opportunities for our team, they will be fully engaged for our clients.”
Since the beginning, both companies have been garnering awards. Here are some of the awards and recognitions they’ve received since November 2017 when we last highlighted them.
Archadeck Nova Scotia
• Consumer Choice Award, 2021 — 7th in a row
• Best of the Best, 2021 by Refined Magazine
• Renovator of the Year, 2020
• Best of Houzz Service, 2021
• Best of Houzz Design, 2021
• Internally, within all 45+ franchises of Archadeck across North America, the Nova Scotia franchise took 1st Prize in these quarterly awards:
o Porch/Roof Structures (Q1, 2021)
o Combo Project (Q1, 2021)
o Under $25K project (Q1, 2021)
o Deck project (Q2, 2021)
• Kitchen & Bath Design Award, 2021
• Best of the Best 2021 by Refined Magazine
• Best of Houzz Service, 2021
• Qualified Remodeller Design Award, 2020
• Peak Awards, Most Outstanding Renovation — Bathroom, 2019
• Peak Awards, Most Outstanding Renovation — Whole House, 2018