Garage makeover winner enjoys his own inner sanctum

Rob Ruisz is a garage guy. His Schaumburg garage is his man cave. He works on his motorcycle, cars and pickup truck there. This is also where he completes house maintenance projects like woodworking - and where Ruisz entertains.

"I am a garage freak. My wife, Liz, and I refer to ourselves as garage dwellers. Some people like to spend lots of time in their backyards. We like to spend lots of time in our garage," the 57-year-old retired Schaumburg police officer said.

The couple has been living in their 1960s-era raised ranch since 2002 and the garage still looked much the way it did when the home was built, with the exception of several large cracks in the floor and lots of pitting from years of road salt.

"The garage was in decent shape because I have never used it to store boxes and junk like many people do. But I had always dreamed about getting an epoxy floor," Ruisz said. "I realized, however, that everyone I knew who laid an epoxy floor themselves saw it wear away. Those floors are simply not a do-it-yourself job."

So when he saw the announcement of Garage Store's annual makeover contest in the Daily Herald, he entered, writing, in part, "Our garage, affectionately named by our friends 'Big Iron Saloon at Rob's Garage,' is a place in our home that serves mainly as a social gathering place, but also as a personal man cave escape zone, a workshop, a vehicle repair shop and used very little for the storage of junk."

"I entered last year, but never heard anything. So I decided to try again," Ruisz said.

Each year, Garage Store adjusts the contest's focus. Two years ago, for instance, Garage Store owner Jim Melchert said he sought to show how a garage could become more organized and functional. Last year, he wanted to show how a "made-over" garage could literally impact the lives of the family living there, so he chose homeowners whose son had respiratory problems that were aggravated by a crumbling garage floor and the resulting dust.

This year, Garage Store wanted to focus on how a garage can become another room of the house, to be used for entertaining as well as other pursuits.

"We had approximately 1,000 entries and chose three finalists," Melchert said.

"Rob was really excited when I stopped by to see his garage and he gave me a really good vibe," Melchert said. "He is a real sociable garage guy who is very organized, has a Harley and actually uses his garage as a room of his house and for entertaining year-round, even though his floor was pretty bad."

Melchert said he knew Ruisz's garage would really show people what can be done with Garage Store's commercial grade flooring system.

"When he pulled up in his Garage Store truck one Saturday morning, it was like the Publisher's Clearinghouse van had pulled up in front of my house," Ruisz said. "I knew it had to be good news because they don't stop by to tell you that you lost. That is when I found out I was one of the three finalists."

A few days later he got the ultimate good news. "Oh my God, it was like my birthday, Christmas and Father's Day all rolled into one! I was in heaven. It was amazing. I feel so fortunate," Ruisz said.

He describes his new garage as the "ultimate man cave" and says now his wife will always know where to find him, adding that the floor is particularly amazing. Garage Store also gave the Ruiszes two wall units, two tall cabinets that extend about 5 feet up from the floor and two workbenches with cabinets below.

"Rob said he was really impressed by the talent and skill of our flooring crew and how much it took to do the job right. It made him understand why this is not something a homeowner can do himself and be successful," Melchert said.

The total value of Ruisz's prize, including the concrete restoration on the floor and subsequent commercial grade coating, was $5,000.

"We have four adult children and six grandchildren and because our garage is heated, it is a great place for all of us to gather, even in the winter. Those gatherings will be even better now," Ruisz said.

Melchert has no doubt the family will enjoy their updated space.

"I am so pleased that after many years of serving the community, this former police officer can enjoy his retirement in this nice garage," he said.

In addition, two runners-up received overhead garage storage systems from Garage Store. They were Kevin and Renee Small of Bartlett and Cathy Novy of Bloomingdale. Garage Store has been helping homeowners reclaim their garages and transform them into another "room" of the house since 2007.

Garage Store is the place to go when a homeowner wants either a full garage makeover or a minor tweak. Solutions range from $300 for an overhead storage rack to $10,000 for a total garage makeover with a polymer floor, wall system, cabinet system, etc.

"All of our products and services for the garage come a la carte so homeowners can pick and choose what fits into their budgets," Melchert said. "We design, install and help them organize."

For example, Garage Store carries several lines of cabinets and wall systems, as well as hooks, baskets, specialized sports racks and shelves. In fact, it designs and installs for Gladiator GarageWorks powder-coated steel cabinets, made by Whirlpool, which come in silver, red or white. It also carries ceiling-mounted bike pulley systems, SafeRacks and MonsterRax for overhead storage, as well as car lifts for stacking and storing vehicles.

Garage Store can also re-claim unused attic space above garages, adding pull-down ladders and flooring above the garage to add as much as 250 to 300 square feet of storage space to the home, Melchert said.

The application of polymer floors like the one given to the Ruisz family is one of the Garage Store's most popular services.

"Since our staff has years of experience in applying commercial flooring systems to manufacturing facilities, automotive centers and restaurants, they transfer those skill sets to our residential work," he said. "We also use our commercial grade products with our residential customers, adding superior strength and performance."

For more information about Garage Store, call (847) 428-8862 or visit

  Rob Ruisz shows off a new cabinet in the garage where he entertains and works on vehicles. Bob Chwedyk/
  Jim Melchert of Garage Store has sponsored an annual garage makeover giveaway for several years. Bob Chwedyk/
  Jim Melchert of Garage Store shows Rob Ruisz of Schaumburg one of the new cabinets. Bob Chwedyk/
  Because they do a lot of entertaining in their heated garage, Rob and Liz Ruisz's friends have dubbed it the "Big Iron Saloon at Rob's Garage." Bob Chwedyk/
This is the Ruisz garage prior to it receiving a commercial grade polymer floor. Courtesy of Ruisz Family
  Jim Melchert of Garage Store inspects the completed makeover at Rob and Liz Ruisz's Schaumburg home. Bob Chwedyk/
  Rob and Liz Ruisz of Schaumburg, with Jim Melchert of Garage Store. Bob Chwedyk/
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