Tucked away in an Andover business park between a few auto shops, one local business is hard at work building “beautiful moving rooms,” as John Omorean calls them.
Omorean is the sales manager for G & R Custom Elevator Cabs — a company that makes handcrafted, one-of-a-kind elevator cabs.
G & R, approaching 37 years in the business, has made more than 11,000 custom cabs, by Omorean’s very rough estimate. One recent project is very close to home — upgrading the Anoka County Government Center’s seven elevators — while another is for a client thousands of miles away — a financial center in Abu Dhabi.
“We are just a small company in a bigger market,” said company president Ken Persons.
G & R has created elevator cabs for buildings in cities from Chicago to Seattle and Los Angeles as well as in countries like China, Egypt and Bermuda.
Business going up
The elevator business will continue to flourish as long as high-rise buildings continue to increase.
“There are more people on elevators every day than anything else with a motor,” Omorean said. “They aren’t going anywhere.”
The small company was started in 1978 by two men, Gary Mundis (the “G”) and Ron Hudak (R), who each had almost 20 years in the business. Persons and Hudak’s son, Steve Hudak, took over the company in 2012. Now, there are about two dozen employees: a group that manages sales and another that makes the insides of the “moving rooms.”
Behind the main office in Andover is a medium-sized warehouse. The smell of wood glue lingers in the air as the craftsmen drill and weld pieces together. Sometimes, half a dozen elevator cabs are being built at a given time, with each one outdoing the other.
The flashier elevators are made completely out of glass (ceiling, side panels, floor) with LED lights.
A personal cab that the company built for King Abdullah in the Sports City complex in Saudi Arabia had etched figures of soccer players on the sides.
Another set of glass elevators built for a company in Abu Dhabi were completely circular, including the doors. Those cost about $230,000 each.
In Anoka County, G & R is helping to modernize the government center’s elevator system, which will cost a total of $1.6 million and begin next spring.
The seven elevators — three service and four public — won’t be flashy as some of the others the company makes. They’ll have minor bronze detailing and marble in a color that’s similar to what’s seen throughout the building. The cabs themselves will cost about $10,000 each.
Although that may seem like a lot of money going into a box people use for a few seconds, Omorean disagrees. He said that, from an architecture point of view, there are two artistic details that matter in a building: the elevators and the bathrooms.
“People just figure it’s an elevator and it goes up and down,” but they are necessary components, he said.
“You wouldn’t have goofy-looking plastic laminate floors” in a building with a marble staircase and a grand chandelier.
“It just doesn’t fit,” Omorean said.
Elevators themselves have become more high tech. One company is working on a cable-less elevator, for example, and a new kind of system called “destination dispatch” directs people to elevators that will get them where they’re going most quickly.
G & R welcomes the developments. Not only will they mean more business, but “the modernization of elevators is actually easier for us,” Omorean said. Destination dispatch elevators don’t have floor numbers inside the cab, “so we don’t have to punch those holes into our elevators.”