From teaching English to refinishing bathtubs

By DeAnn Rossetti

  • Monday, November 24, 2008 8:03pm
  • Business

By DeAnn Rossetti

Downtown & Around Town

Miriam Beck was a retired English teacher who was staying at home with her children when she got a call from a friend, a retired Metro bus driver who’d purchased a porcelain refinishing franchise and needed help.

“He’d never done sales, so while my children were napping, I agreed to call his answering service and make return calls to those inquiring about his services,” Beck said. “Pretty soon he got so busy, he told me he wanted to teach me to do the job (porcelain refinishing). I said `You’ve got to be kidding!”’

Beck not only learned how to refinish bathtubs, sinks and tile, but she was also offered the business in 1983.

“I told him: `Give me one year until my stepdaughter is in kindergarten,’ and he did. So in September of 1984, we signed the papers,” said Beck.

Beck renamed the business American Bathtub Refinishers and Remodelers, so she’d be among the first names listed in the phone book, and became the only women in the nation in the bathtub refinishing industry.

“I had no business education, so I had to reinvent the wheel,” said Beck. “I hired some technicians and taught them to do the work, and found another company to share a shop with (to do bathtub refinishing on antique tubs) and eventually we bought our own building and added vehicles until we now have seven of them, and they’re out on the road on a daily basis.”

Beck said her company refinishes or reglazes six to 10 bathtubs or showers every day, and often reglazes ceramic bath tile and sinks as well. They also do one full bathroom remodel per week.

While the average reglazing for a bathtub runs about $400, the average bathroom remodel costs between $3,000 and $20,000. American Bathtub Refinishers and Remodelers originally made $30,000 a year for the retired Metro bus driver, but now brings in several times that amount.

“It was just one man working to see what he could accomplish,” said Beck. “Now we bring in more than two times the amount he brought in during the year every month.”

The refinish or spot repair lasts up to eight years, said Beck, with normal use.

“It’s a lot of bang for your buck,” said Beck. “When we see them, most bathtubs look like horse troughs, and then we go in fix and reglaze it and when we leave the tub looks clean, fresh and shiny.”

Beck and her eight employees use her Mercer Island home for their base of operations, and note that they do over 2,000 bathtubs a year, and have done 40,000 reglazes in their history.

“Everybody has a bathtub so sooner or later everybody needs us,” said Beck.

American Bathtub Refinishers and Remodelers can be reached at 232-1856, or 206-784-1668.

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