Shelter From The Storm: Berryville firm's unusual product is saving lives, growing jobs

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

BERRYVILLE -- A new business in town is striving to make America "safe at home" while bringing new jobs to Carroll County.

StormRooms of America celebrated their grand opening last week with a ribbon cutting and an open house.

The company, which is the exclusive manufacturer in the United States of the DuPont StormRoom with Kevlar, has been operating out of its Berryville plant now since mid-January, and owner Marty Strough says the business is doing much better than expected.

The DuPont StormRoom with Kevlar is an indoor shelter that has now been proven in the real world.

Two shelters brought people through the Joplin EF-5 tornado last year, then two more saved lives in Oklahoma's EF-5 tornado two days later. Strough even has on display in his showroom the storm-tested door from one of the EF-5 tornadoes.

Strough was featured in the finale of Extreme Makeover Home Edition earlier this year where the crew built homes for multiple families whose homes were destroyed by the Joplin tornado. Strough and his crew installed stormrooms in all of the homes.

Response was so good, Strough said, that they now have 27 dealers stretching from North Dakota to Florida and from Texas to North Carolina.

The business now has five full-time employees, with part-timers brought in as needed, Strough said. Many local vendors provide parts for the stormrooms, but as the business grows, he hopes to bring more of the operation in-house.

The company is aiming for at least 20 full-time positions one day soon, he says.

The plant is in the old Brashear's location on Springfield Street. The showroom has display models of the stormrooms that have been converted into laundry rooms, home theaters, and Strough explained, "A stormroom can be used for just about any room in the house that doesn't need a window."

Strough, and his wife, Darlene, were dealers of the StormRoom when it was being originally manufactured by DuPont, but they made an arrangement with DuPont to take over the manufacturing and marketing of the product from the Berryville location.

Strough remembers being a kid and taking cover in old damp cellars, and he knew that many people today don't have any shelter at all anymore.

"With the outside underground shelters, moving kids outside through the storm -- and then sometimes leaving them there to go back for more kid -- is scary." said Strough. "A stormroom can simply be another room in your house. Close the door behind you and watch TV, listen to the radio, the kids can play. The stormroom doesn't interfere with cell phone signals either."

Now, as the first anniversary of the Joplin and Oklahoma tornadoes approaches, the Stroughs say they are proud to have played a part in survival stories. As demand for the shelters increase, the list of lives saved by the DuPont StormRoom with Kevlar is bound to grow.

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