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Meet Mike, Kristina and James Gillis of MK Remodeling and Design in East Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mike, Kristina and James Gillis.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Mike, Kristina, James. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Mike: I have a farming heritage. I grew up in New Mexico, working on the farm with my hands. My great grandfather was the first to commercialize Hatch Green Chile so that was the family business. Later on, I worked in the food processing industry for a couple of different companies. I ventured into remodeling because it was something I understood and could start quick in order to get out of the food industry. I wanted to start a business in which I could build something for my family and do something that I genuinely enjoyed, so I went for it.

Kristina: I went to school for interior design and worked for MK part-time through school. After school, I pretty much went straight to work for the family business and have done interior design work ever since. Mike hasn’t been able to get rid of me yet!

James: I have a fairly diverse background. I went to Arizona state for my bachelors and my MBA. Along the way, I worked as a Guest Service Manager for Disney in operations, worked in multiple roles for the Vanguard Group in the finance industry and finally I came to help out in the family business. The biggest reason was that it gave me the opportunity to really practice and utilize a wide range of business skills in the process of growing and expanding a small business. It was a unique situation in which I could break from being stove piped in one area of a business to a role in which I am responsible from everything from, business strategy to business finance to sales to operations. It has been a tremendous learning experience; it is a big transition from a corporate setting with almost unlimited resources, but very little influence to having major influence, but minimal resources. It has been a fun ride.

Has it been a smooth road?
Mike: It hasn’t been a smooth road, but hasn’t been a rough one either. Overall, I’ve been blessed and am grateful to get up every morning and have the opportunity and ability to work. One of the toughest struggles was the recession. I started the company in ‘07 (perfect timing, I know!) as the economy crashed and almost lost before I started, but through perseverance, hard work, a good crew and an understanding wife, we survived and built a great base of customers and clients.

Kristina: For me, the struggle has been balancing family with business. Working in a family business isn’t easy! It was hard enough working with dad (although we do get along very well), but when my big brother came on board it caused that much more friction in the family dynamic. We make it work though…we’re still here!

James: I’m not sure if anyone has a smooth road; if they have had one, they are very lucky! I have had some great opportunities and worked with some amazing people, so I can’t complain too much. The biggest hurdle I have had through the years was being laid off during the recession, however there was a great lesson in having that happen; it taught me to be resilient and don’t take things for granted. It was hard at the time, but afterwards I was able to start my MBA, start working for Vanguard and now here I am. I learned that as long as you don’t let those struggles keep you from taking the next step, they will shape you for the better.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the MK Remodeling and Design story. Tell us more about the business.
Mike: We are a family owned residential remodeling company specializing in cabinetry and cabinet related projects like kitchens and bathrooms. I’m most proud of our customer satisfaction; we spend a lot of time making sure they are taken care of and that has really shown in our reviews and feedback. I’m also very proud to be able to provide jobs for my family and my crew. They’ve rewarded myself and the company with great work, loyalty and a style that I feel strongly is very uncommon in this industry.

Kristina: When designing spaces, I really try to focus on functionality and how the client will be living in that space. I try to get to know and understand the client so that I can take their ideas and shape them into something that is both unique to them and functional for their lifestyle. I also think we tend to treat clients’ spaces how we would our own. We aren’t going to put something in someone’s home that we wouldn’t put in our own and we really try to treat the client like a member of the family.

Each space is a puzzle and taking apart that puzzle and putting it back together into something the client likes aesthetically is something I really enjoy. The best part is seeing the client’s smile at the end and knowing we did something that will touch their lives everyday.

James: We provide a unique design aesthetic that is also malleable to the client. Kristina does a great job of taking their style and enhancing it with our touch to produce something that is unique to that client’s space. You aren’t going to see many other remodeled spaces that can stand up to ours; especially when you get into the details.

We also take a lot of pride in making sure the overall remodel experience is as smooth as possible. We take our time upfront to make selections and design the space before we jump into a remodel. Many other contractors will start something and hit delays because they didn’t take the time up front really dial in what the project is going to look like and how it will proceed. The other aspect to the experience is the overall service; there are countless items in a remodel that come up that we try to make sure don’t reach the client since the process is stressful and demanding. However, when unavoidable things happen we make sure to involve the client early and take responsibility when it is our error. Often, the client’s where we have had an issue during the process are the most supportive of us because we did take the time to fix it and developed a strong level of trust along the way.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Mike: That’s a hard one to answer. I see the industry struggling with keeping up with demand due to labor shortages. This isn’t a glamorous industry and we don’t have enough young people coming into it to keep up with the work. Adding to that, it is an industry that is very hard to automate so that labor shortage is going to become very much more apparent in the coming years and our prices will probably reflect that.

Kristina: From a design perspective, clients want something unique and they are going to demand that more and more. Also, I think access to more and different types of materials will improve as clients become more sophisticated in what they want out of their remodel. It wasn’t too long ago that most clients had a range of choices on some items that consisted of what two or three brands carried. Not so today and I see that trend continuing.

James: Overall, I think the residential remodeling industry 10 years from now will look very similar to the remodeling industry of today. Since it is so labor intensive and every job is highly customized, it is difficult to introduce major disruptive technologies into the remodeling process.

Where I see a shift is with the design of projects. In the past, most remodelers tend to be one man operations with backgrounds in carpentry or some other trade and have little experience, let alone an eye for design. With HGTV and other media platforms like Houzz and Pinterest, consumers have a much better idea of how spaces can look if time is taken to design them properly. They are demanding a space that is unique to their home and not a copy of a remodel down the street. I think the successful contractors in the near future will have a strong competency in design and the ability to execute that design to really add a unique value to a client’s space versus the alternative of replacing the same cookie cutter layout with different materials. If that shift occurs, it would be great for the industry and consumers; it will demand a much higher level of professionalism from remodelers and clients will get a much better product.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Shane Baker Studios

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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