An employee at Shutters Plus works on a piece of wood that will become part of a shutter system at a facility on Cleveland Street.
ALBANY, Ga. — When the economy tanked in 2008, it claimed more than its fair share of small businesses.
Headlines across the country heralded the housing collapse, the decline of the stock market, the high price of oil and the tightening of an already stingy lending climate.
And yet, somehow, a business started with one man and a part-time helper not only survived the Great Recession but managed to thrive.
MOBILE USERS: Click here to view the video.
Today, Chad Warbington oversees Shutters Plus, a bustling remodeling and home improvement business with nine full-time employees and servicing customers from Valdosta to Dothan, Ala., to Americus, all from his location in midtown Albany.
"I'm not entirely sure why our business has grown when other places have struggled," Warbington said. "But we have always tried to focus on providing quality work and good service, and I think that's hit home with some people."
Warbington, who first came to Albany in 1995 as an engineer for Procter & Gamble, opted in 2005 to change careers and ended up purchasing the place that would become the epicenter of his professional life on Cleveland Street.
The business model was a relatively simple one: He would provide a high-quality product at a reasonable price and, if customers ever needed help, he'd answer the phone.
In a world where automated lines and robocalls dominate the marketplace, it was a simple and effective plan.
"We started off pretty simple; just selling mostly plantation shutters," Warbington said. "But we'd also have people come in and they'd need something built — some woodworking or cabinets — and so things just kind of blossomed from there."
The next logical step was to increase the product lines — offering fully-customized cabinets and countertops — and provide customers with what they wanted.
But Warbington quickly realized that increasing production would require increasing his space, a dim option in his brick-and-mortar building on Cleveland.
"So we went and bought the land across the street ... got the old Ford dealership body shop and were really able to do the kind of work that we needed to do," Warbington said.
It's there that his workers do all of the fabrication, woodworking, building and painting of the various creations that Warbington's customers are able to dream up.
Now, Warbington and his crew are able to better address the demand for their products.
"I think a lot of it has been word of mouth, or even just plain curiosity," Warbington said. "Maybe we've had a client that has had a good experience and they've told their friends, or maybe some neighbors have seen our trucks in the neighborhood and it has prompted them to call. I don't know. But I'm appreciative."