Steven Russell is giving a tour of his factory when he points to a large beam on top of a shelf.
“Only you and I know that’s not wood,” he says. It certainly looks like wood, down to the grain texture. But it’s easy enough for one person to lift without much effort. And that’s the beauty of his business, he said.
Creative Architectural Resin Products creates faux wood and stone products, such as beams, paneling and molding. The resin-based goods are more durable than Styrofoam, lighter than concrete and cheaper than wood or stone. It’s been a long journey to where he is now, but he feels he’s found the right niche.
The idea was actually planted about 25 years ago when Russell was working in the yacht industry. He was involved in the manufacturing process from start to finish, and saw how resin products were used to build the watercraft. The idea bubbled up again when he was selling impact glass in Fort Myers years later. He kept hearing about a need in home building for alternatives to Styrofoam or concrete. So he ventured into a business creating resin products. It was successful at first, but the timing was off: The Great Recession hit and the home-building market tanked.
He later regrouped and, along with partner Marilyn Santiago, started CARP in 2015. Its clients are mostly large housing developers looking to create something unique for their projects. The business has recently provided shutters and other architectural details for Margaritaville communities across the South. Its 6,000-square-foot factory serves as home base, but the company is just about at capacity and looking to expand. “Our emphasis is custom work,” Santiago says. “[Our clients] are looking for products that differentiate them. They don’t want something cookie-cutter. We are only limited by our imagination.”