Scott Allis discovered Miracle Method US Corp. while looking to have his bathtub replaced.
He became a franchisee for the Colorado Springs kitchen and bath refinishing business in fall 2011 and set a company record with $372,000 worth of work in the first year. Business is up 143 percent so far this year.
"I'm not surprised," said the 53-year-old Rochester resident. "It's hard work. What we do is so unique that there's such a need out there."
Allis is owner and president of Miracle Method of Greece NY, a subsidiary of SL Associates of Rochester Inc. with an office on Dewey Avenue. It is the first Miracle Method franchise in New York.
He employs six technicians and an office staff of three, up from two employees in the first several weeks after opening in October 2011. His long-term goals include expanding east and possibly west in the state.
"It's a niche business," Allis said. "Niche businesses can be great or they can be devastating. It's really how you market it.
"Eighty percent of the population doesn't know that resurfacing and refinishing is an option to ripping out and replacing."
His goal is to show the 80 percent that Miracle Method is a viable, less expensive option than ripping out, removing and replacing.
"And it's a sustainability option. It's a green technology," he said.
The local Miracle Method office has done work for nearly 1,000 residences and 200 commercial entities. Its clients have included Unity Health System, American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association National Housing Corp. senior living in Webster, and area colleges, including the SUNY College at Brockport and SUNY College at Fredonia.
"Operating a college is difficult because you have accelerated wear and tear," said Donald Dominick, vice president of business development for Miracle Method Surface Refinishing, a division of Miracle Method US. "Students are very hard on residence halls and the physical structures of buildings.
"Community showers, for example, get far more use than you have in a typical residence. Our process is to update the look of that shower and at the same time create a permanent seal on the floor so you no longer have grout that retains moisture, which leads to mold and mildew."
Miracle Method US has 130 franchisees, Dominick said. It has $135 million in revenues so far this year, compared to $130 million last year, and has had record growth in each of the last four years.
For the last two weeks, the Greece location has been redoing countertops at Rochester Institute of Technology's student apartments. The work is being done on a trial basis in 10 of the 1,000 units, said Kurt Ingerick, RIT's director of facilities, sustainability and conservation.
Refurbishing rather than replacing the countertops will cut costs as much as 50 percent and comes with a warranty of at least five years, Ingerick said.
"It's more responsible from a cost as well as an environmental perspective," he said, pointing out that some of the countertops, tile floors and tubs are up to 20 years old.
"There's not much else you're going to be able to do with it besides completely remove it and landfill it or put some sort of tub enclosures on," Ingerick said.
Some of the apartments were constructed 45 years ago, Ingerick said. He declined to say how much the project will cost.
"Residential is 60 percent of our business," Allis said. "It just seems that commercial has boomed over the last few months, just with the universities."
Rehabbing kitchens and baths instead of replacing them is less expensive and environmentally friendly, he said.
"We're not filling up the landfill with junk that comes out of the house. We're utilizing what you already have and making it better," Allis said.
The same techniques apply to hospitals.
"We go into hospitals where they're having a problem with cleaning up the grout," Allis said. "We can change the color, upgrade the look and then seal the grout to where it's no longer a problem.
"We can upgrade the existing tile, and it becomes easier to clean and there's no longer a bacteria problem."
The first-year revenue of $372,000 was 80 percent higher than the previous high for Miracle Method US, founded in 1979 in San Francisco.
Allis attributes the local franchise's success to another company for which he is a franchisee: Liberty Tax Service, a subsidiary of JTH Holding Inc. of Virginia Beach, Va. Allis owns the Liberty Tax Service office in Webster.
"Our accounting team had all the administrative things in place already," he said.
Allis also is a franchisee for Healthy Vending Machines, whose parent is Las Vegas-based Healthier 4U Vending.
Allis is a native of Romulus, Seneca County. He moved to Rochester in 1981 and eventually became a partner at an East Rochester software manufacturer and data collection firm from 1989 to 1994.
Then he left the area, living in eight other states and owning businesses in three of them.
He also is involved in Baptist missionary work in Central Asia and Nigeria. He was a missionary in Belarus for 12 years.
"I chose to come back to Rochester because of its diversity and because it does have a great history of entrepreneurship," Allis said. "I'm an entrepreneur at heart."
Allis is looking toward Syracuse and perhaps Buffalo for expansion. He hopes to have an office in Syracuse by the end of 2014.
"It's really Central New York, from Syracuse and Watertown down to Binghamton. I probably would open an office in Elmira; we do quite a bit of work down there. I would try to own the central Finger Lakes region," he said.
The Buffalo market has not been as receptive to Miracle Method as has Central New York, Allis said.
"Would I open in Buffalo? Yeah, because I do some work in Fredonia. The University at Buffalo uses a franchise located out of Cleveland. Buffalo State does also. It would be natural to take over that market," he said.
The Syracuse and Buffalo markets remain available to potential franchisees, Dominick said.
"They are still for sale," he said. "Scott needs to make a commitment, and we would welcome that."
"There's an expression we use: It's not the market, it's the manager. Scott has a gift. That is his ability to present what we do, and he's been very successful at that. As for Syracuse and Buffalo, we're going to let him make that decision as to which direction he wants to go."
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