Company History

My name is Chris Wood and I am the owner/president of Steelsafe Shelters LLC. I think it is important for our current and future clients to know our business philosophy and background. This is our story:

For many years, I worked in the construction industry. I have built homes, developed subdivisions, and been part of upper management with a couple of different high volume, residential builders. My dad has put in over thirty five years, working industrial maintenance for a couple of different large companies. I was living in the small town of Albertville back when the housing market crashed and construction came to a halt, back around 2008/2009. I had to figure out a way to support my family, and two growing boys who liked to eat regardless of how many permits were issued that week. By 2009, I was doing odd and end jobs to make ends meet, while trying to figure out what direction I needed to focus on for the long term. I had never thought of the storm shelter business until an isolated, but severe, tornado hit my home town in the spring of 2010. The home of my parents, where my brother and I were raised, was hit and destroyed. My parents were at home and very fortunate that they were not injured, or worse. Before I even started building the home back both my Mom and Dad said the same thing. They were committed to "having a storm shelter added to their home during the repairs". Without having any knowledge of storm shelters, I turned to Google and found the below ground, in garage shelter like they wanted. These shelters were not yet popular in the southeast back in 2010, and Oklahoma, where they had been using these regularly for years, was my only option. After several emails and phone calls, I finally had the chance to speak to someone from the factory in Oklahoma. I asked the basic questions, along with the ones that my parents wanted particular answers on. The next day I placed the order for a single shelter to be installed for my Mom and Dad.

Once the shelter was delivered, things started happening really fast. As I was digging to install the first one, several others stopped by and wanted one as well. I contacted the factory again and asked if I could be an independent dealer for their products in the small area where I lived at the time. Initially, they were as excited to have me as I was to have access to their products. Having had a construction background and being very service oriented, I knew I had to make a decision to go in "all or nothing". Realizing the need locally for the products, I made the decision to move forward, and to give it all that I had. I borrowed money from my parents, my bank, and anyone else who were willing to take a chance on me.

I bought a mini excavator, trucks, concrete saws, dump trailers, and everything else that I needed to do the job right the first time. I spent all that my budget would allow on a new web site and hired someone to manage it the correct way. I convinced my Dad to leave his secure job to come into the company to help me get things moving in the right direction. I knew to do the best possible, I needed someone in the field who didn't settle for a job just being "ok". Someone who was a perfectionist and would do things how I would do it, plus some! With my Dad being as reserved as he is, it was not easy to convince him to make this leap from a regular paycheck, into the unknown. Thankfully Dad believed in the products and the process, and was given some company ownership for taking the chance. Within a few months, we had orders, with deposits, on around 60 shelters. I was signing contracts on 5-6 per week, right after the storm, yet was only being delivered 2-3 per week from Oklahoma. Dad and his guys were great on the deliveries and installs and everyone we worked for was 100% happy with our work. Yet we had this problem. We were selling more than we were being delivered. I saw real fast that I had to control all aspects of my business or if not, this factory in Oklahoma would ruin my reputation and eventually be the cause of my downfall. For weeks I stayed awake asking myself the same questions over and over. I talked to successful people who owned their own business. I talked to my family and I prayed a lot, trying to see a clear direction. My path moving forward became very clear to me when one of the initial clients that I had on contract asked me to send their deposit back because they "didn't want to wait any longer for their shelter to arrive from Oklahoma".

While trying to maintain the daily operations of my new company, my nights were spent researching the correct way to manufacture a quality storm shelter at a reasonable price. The most obvious lesson that I learned was that manufacturing would be very expensive. My research showed me that every model would require a completed prototype, would need to be tested to FEMA specs, would require certified prints with an engineer stamp, and after all of that, the shelters must be fabricated by someone who had both experience and pride in their work. My limited budget required me to start with one model and size at a time. Common sense told me to start with my best selling model and keep going until I had everything in order to fabricate every model in the product line.

After several months of "trial and error", I had all the testing and documents required to do things the proper way, and manufacture all of my own products. Almost immediately, the quality of each product was much higher, while the cost of each was lowered. I had solved the supply/demand issue and had a great product at great price. Seemingly overnight, I had a new problem, one that was more serious than the previous issues. All of a sudden, without warning, I HAD NO SALES! Just as I had things figured out, the orders stopped. The spring storm season had passed, the storm repairs were all wrapping up, and the phone stopped ringing. My eyes were quickly opened to the reality at hand.

I had invested all of this money to be able to manufacture and had incurred all of this debt, and no business. It didnít take long at all for me to figure out that the majority of the individual families who purchased storm shelters would make their purchases in the spring storm season, typically between January and May. In order to manufacture year round, and bring in income to support my family, I had to develop a new plan to work all twelve months of the year.

With my home builder background, it only made sense to call on the more reputable home builders. I knew that I had to build a solid client base that would need my products year round, rather than just the spring months when the average shelter company did the bulk of their annual sales. Living in Albertville where construction was at a complete standstill, I knew I had to go to either Huntsville or Birmingham. I chose Huntsville initially, and started knocking on doors.

The majority of the home builders did not use shelters and didn't want to waste their time with me. I went back, and back and back again. I even offered a free shelter to some, in order to give my products a chance. Before long I had builders placing orders. I looked at Birmingham also and tested the market with the largest builder in the area. The clients wanted my products and the builders realized a storm shelter added very healthy margin points to their bottom line. I knew I could make it when new home builders, some of the most reputable ones in the area, started calling me to "drop by and see them". Within a year, I was working regularly with the majority of the major home builders from Birmingham to Huntsville. To date, I can proudly say that we have never lost a home builder client to another company, and this business segment, the professional builder, makes up nearly 70% of our total annual wholesale business.

Thank you for taking your time to read about our background and to also see what we have planned for the near future. As the president of Steelsafe Shelters, LLC, I can confidently say that I truly believe that we offer the best products and the best service, all at a very fair price. Should you read this and end up making a purchase from our company or from one of our dealer partners and your experience NOT be as I have stated it should be, please let me know. Total client satisfaction is the only acceptable result that I know of and if your experience is anything other than that, I would like to know to find out why, address the situation, and to be sure that we do all that we can to make the experience up to you in some small way.

Regards,
Chris P. Wood
President, Steelsafe Shelters, LLC
(o) 256-506-9449
(c) 256-302-6102
chris@steelsafeshelters.com

Tested & Approved

All of our shelter models meet or exceed to requirements to qualify for available funding and grants that are available through FEMA, ADEM, or your county EMA. This includes:

  • Certified Test Results (Texas Tech Wind, Science, Engineering, & Debris Impact Test)
  • Engineer Certified and Stamped Blue Prints and Drawings
  • Exceeds FEMA 320/361 guidelines for storm shelters
  • Exceeds ICC-500 guidelines for storm shelters
  • Exceeds ASTM 330 guidelines for static pressure testing
  • 20 year corrosion warranty