Heidi Eglund of Prospect Heights is a self-proclaimed "neat freak." Her home is always neat and tidy. But until recently, when it came to her family's garage, she threw up her hands.
The garage had become a dumping ground and she was embarrassed for anyone to see it. Her husband, Paul, is a professional painter so his work supplies often cluttered up the space. In addition, there were sports items, gardening supplies, used furniture and family hand-me-downs that prevented Paul from parking his car inside for more than 10 years. In fact, Heidi only parked her car in the garage during the winter because normally there just wasn't enough room.
In addition, the 65-year-old concrete floor was cracked and pitted, so it was constantly emitting dust. Heidi could sweep and sweep and it would still feel and look dirty.
So this spring when she saw the Daily Herald and Garage Store had teamed up to offer the Garage Makeover Contest, she took some photos of the source of her embarrassment and sent in an entry. She was one of about 80 readers who entered to win the $5,000 makeover.
As luck would have it, Heidi won the grand prize while three other readers each won overhead storage racks worth $500 for their respective garages.
"I really wanted to choose a garage where I could make a difference for someone by making it functional and useful," said Jim Melchert, owner of Garage Store, based in East Dundee. "I wanted to make sure I chose active people for whom it would become not just a garage, but another room of the house. I also wanted them to be able to park their cars inside again and, of course, I also wanted a good showcase for my product."
The announcement that she had won the prize forced Heidi and Paul to clear out their garage, throwing out or recycling items they no longer needed. Then Paul gave the walls a fresh coat of paint.
Next, Melchert went to work, first learning about the Eglunds' lifestyle and needs and then designing a garage for them using cabinets, racks, hanging systems and a work area with a countertop.
"All of our products and services for the garage come a la carte, so homeowners can pick and choose what fits into their budget," Melchert said.
For instance, Garage Store carries several lines of cabinets, wall systems, as well as hooks, baskets, specialized sports racks, shelves and much more. In fact, it is the exclusive designer and installer in Illinois for Gladiator GarageWorks powder-coated steel cabinets, made by Whirlpool. It also installs ceiling-mounted bike pulley systems, SafeRacks and MonsterRax for overhead storage.
Melchert was also determined to give the Eglunds a new floor so that Heidi could stop her fruitless sweeping.
Garage Store personnel ground out the cracks and filled in the pits with flexible material. Then they resurfaced the entire floor using trowels and put down several different coats of materials that resulted in an easy-to-clean, OSHA-approved, slip-resistant polymer floor that looks gorgeous.
Garage Store also installed a 4-inch lip all around that acts like a baseboard and keeps water from melting snow and rain from wicking up the walls. It also makes hosing out the garage periodically a simple process.
After the floor was complete, the company installed extensive storage solutions that handle everything from Paul's drop cloths and painting supplies, to their children's sports equipment and Heidi's gardening materials. There is now even room to store luggage on the huge racks that Garage Store supplied.
"I managed to cover all of my material costs in the $5,000 prize and threw in much of the labor because I didn't want to leave any part of the space incomplete," Melchert said.
"I am so thrilled with our new garage. I no longer have to put down the garage door to hide it," Eglund said. "It had been a disaster since we moved in 18 years ago. Every year it seemed that something else came up that took precedence over organizing the garage."
With their oldest child about to head off to college and another one in high school, Eglund had figured that fixing up their garage would have to wait at least another seven years. But Garage Store stepped in and made a huge difference in their lives.
"People today are staying in their houses longer and it seems that the garage is always the space that is neglected," Melchert said. "Our aim is to come up with ways to make people's lives easier. So, we go out to talk to them at home and really understand what activities they are involved in, how many kids they have and so forth. Then we come up with a proposal and a price."
The runners-up who won overhead storage racks from Garage Store were Steve Maglich of Rolling Meadows, Susan Stewert of Elgin and Jackie Rosenfeldt of St. Charles.
Garage Store has a 2,000-square-foot warehouse and showroom at 1082 Rock Road Lane, Unit E, East Dundee, which is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call (847) 428-8862 or visit www.garage-store.com.