Jason Fabio had his dream job. He got his pilot’s license at age 18 and worked for a few years at a regional airline before getting hired as a pilot by Northwest Airlines. Being a pilot was all he’d ever wanted. Then, after September 11, 2001, Fabio was laid-off, when all the airline industry took a downturn. He thought it would be temporary, but weeks turned to months and then years. He started to realize he was going to have to make a change.
“When I was a kid, I had uncles who were contractors and worked in construction. Just a guy and a truck, no office or regular employees. I worked for them occasionally, so I had some skills and was familiar with the industry,” Fabio says.
He decided he wanted to go into business for himself. “If I was going to lose my job again,” he says. “I didn’t want it to be at the whim of a big company.”
But he also didn’t want to be just a guy in a truck.
“I wanted to own my own business, and to take it to the next level,” he says. “There’s a real need for professional standards in this business … I’m passionate about building a professional industry.” He also wanted to improve any negative perception the public might have about contractors.
Fabio started Ispiri in 2007. He had an idea to be a one-stop shop. He opened a showroom in Woodbury where customers could see everything they would need for their remodeling projects: cabinets, countertops, tile and moldings, floor coverings and paint colors … an entire project can be sourced without the homeowner having to drive all over the metro area looking at cabinets and counters in one place and sinks and toilets in another.
In May Fabio brought that concept to a new showroom at 50th and France in Edina. “We have a lot of customers in Edina,” he says. “It made sense for us as an expansion.” The Edina showroom will offer the same all-in-one-place convenience. Designers are available to answer questions and give advice.
Photo by Spacecrafting Photography
The showroom is the face of the business. Ispiri has 28 full-time employees and five part time. Some of them have been with Fabio almost since the beginning. He points to that as an indication that the business isn’t just a job-to-job enterprise. “We’re building a business on a reputation for following through … over half our business comes from referrals,” he says.
Martina and Nathan Malek are happy customers who hired Ispiri to turn a finished bonus room space on the third floor of their house into two bedrooms and bath for their teenaged sons. The Maleks got several quotes from other contractors and found most of them were pretty close in price, so it came down to choosing the one they trusted the most.
“We really wanted to make sure we connected,” Nathan Malek says. “We wanted to make sure we were working with someone who would preserve the character of our home.”
Their home is a 1930s Tudor in the Country Club North neighborhood. The Maleks wanted the new construction to blend seamlessly with the interior of the house.
“Jason acknowledged the vulnerability of having people we didn’t know in our home,” Martina Malek says. “That was really important to me.”
The work started in April and finished in September and there were a few hiccups but the Maleks are happy with the way Ispiri dealt with the unexpected.
They also appreciated the showroom setup that let them pick all the finishes for everything in about two hours.
And finally: the cleanup. “They did a phenomenal job of cleaning up,” Martina says. “We were really looking forward to being done and it was great to be able to just move into the space as soon as they left.”
“We would definitely work with them again,” Nathan says. “So, we’re glad they’ve opened a showroom in Edina and we won’t have to make the drive to Woodbury.”
The Malek Addition
The Maleks love their 1930s Tudor home in Country Club North but they have four kids and the new baby was sleeping in their (very nice, walk-in) closet—they needed another bedroom. The third floor was finished but it was just one big room. They wanted that space to be more useful. “If we could get our two oldest boys’ bedrooms and bathroom up there … it would solve a lot of problems,” Martina says. The challenge was to build out the third floor in a way that felt like it was original to the house. “We wanted all the finishes to match the finishes on the second floor,” Nathan says.
They’d bought the house for its lovely architecture and charm, and they wanted that charm in the new third floor suite.
Ispiri designer Sara Martin worked to help the Maleks match the existing finishes but the door knobs were giving her some trouble. After searching the world over, she found them. “They are hand forged in France by a company called Bouvet,” Martin says. “The cost for one of them was $800 … we needed three.” The Maleks went with something more domestic “with the cherry custom doors, the knobs we used melded very nicely with the look and feel,” she says. And they didn’t have to be handmade in France.
There were a few surprises but, in the end, the Maleks were happy with the work-arounds Ispiri came up with. A window seat in one bedroom was the solution to an immovable AC duct that no one anticipated would be uncovered when walls started getting torn out. The ceiling of the second-floor bathroom had to be lowered to accommodate the pipes that needed to run under the floor in the new bathroom above it, but Nathan says that unless you knew that ceiling had been lowered you’d never notice the change.
Ispiri has several houses in the Fall Parade of Homes Remodelers Showcase which takes place September 28–29th. See paradeofhomes.org for more details.