SPRING HILL — "A lot of people say, ‘You do that? Are you serious?’" said Wade Sutherlin, who designs and constructs elevator cabs and has an official certificate of competency to do just that.
He’s likely the only one in Hernando County.
"There’s not a lot of businesses doing that," he said.
Sutherlin recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of his company, NCIS Elevator, and has 14 projects underway or in the planning across central Florida.
The entrepreneur credits his former employer, a Tampa Bay builder of elevator systems, for helping him combine earlier experience in industrial railing installation, cabinetmaking and electrical work. The same skills are necessary for building and refurbishing elevator cabs.
"Oh, and flooring, too," Sutherlin added.
Working out of a home garage and a dining room-cum-design studio, the concrete driveway and a bit of the yard, Sutherlin’s fiancee, Amanda Young, 38, has joined the endeavor.
"Apple started in a garage," Young said. The couple recently hired its first employee.
"Everybody uses the elevator unless they’re on the ground floor," he said, "so it has to represent the property well."
According to elevator industry expert Lewis R. Jimenez, Miami, "The design of your elevator can affect the comfort and safety of a building’s guests." It should convey the "safety and careful design evident in the remainder of the building."
In Sutherland’s words, "It should be a complement to the building."
Most of NCIS’ work as a sub-contractor involves cab refurbishing, from style updates to use conversions.
"Like a home, finishes go in and out of style," said Sutherlin. "Everything sort of has a lifespan as far as being trendy. Like, avocado green is outdated."
Sometimes elevator cabs need modernization, like replacing buzzy florescent lighting with LED fixtures.
An old apartment building being converted to offices means a change in elevator audience, Sutherland said. The former may have called for interior padding to protect cab walls from dings by furniture on the move. The latter may require brighter lighting and more decorative touches.
"The culture of the customer is a big factor in what they need," he said.
Clients from Orlando to Pompano Beach, so far, lean on Sutherlin for design and material recommendations.
"I’ll try to match finishes within the building so the elevator doesn’t look out of place," he said.
Then comes the installation.
"I draw it, I fabricate it, all done here, then assemble (the cab) as a unit on site," Sutherlin said. "All my supplies are from Hernando County, except those I can’t get here. All materials are made in America."
The small firm must expand its space soon. Sutherlin needs an edge bander and panel saw.
"We can’t fit that in the kitchen," Young said, "So we’re already looking (for a building)." Sutherlin said it will happen in 2019.
Another goal is chalked on their kitchen door, "$200K." It’s NCIS Elevator’s business goal for 2018.
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]