How dirty grout inspired a franchise
Sir Grout is a 38-unit chain based in Alpharetta, Georgia, offering grout rejuvenation without tile replacement.
Jeff Gill sat with his head in his hands, unsure of what he was going to do next. It was the early 2000s, and he had bought a business opportunity called Chips Away, which repaired paint chips and bumper scuffs on high-end cars. The business was shot down after initial interest from various Rent-a-Car businesses, leaving him jobless with a garage full of expensive steam cleaners.
Seeing the stained, run-down grout and tile in his front entryway, Gill decided to use a steam cleaner and put a brush on the end of it. It cleaned the grout much better than his other efforts, and from there a light bulb went on. “I don’t know anybody who steam cleans grout, so I’m going to start a grout steam cleaning biz,” Gill said.
Gill spoke with his friend and former college roommate, Tom Lindberg, in an effort to team up, but Lindberg thought the concept would be easily replicable. “I remember saying it’s not unique, it’s not novel and somebody can knock you off tomorrow as long as they find one of those steam cleaning machines a la Stanley Steemer,” Lindberg said.
The two looked around for a solution, and found a color seal product in Florida, which immediately wowed the pair. The fated recoloring chemical was soon implemented, enough to convince Lindberg to hop on as co-founder. It gave Sir Grout a unique system and a product that worked—and started attracting franchisees.
Who you gonna call?
Today, Sir Grout is one of many home-related businesses growing steadily. Average home prices in June hit their highest point since 2007, according to Case-Shiller’s U.S. National Home Index.
Higher-end houses often come with high-end tile, countertops and wood flooring—something that many homeowners struggle to maintain. Sir Grout, a 38-unit chain based in Alpharetta, Georgia, is attempting to help consumers ditch the old standbys of bleach, ammonia and vinegar, for a more creative and efficient solution that prevents future discoloration.
The company’s technicians use a proprietary chemical that cleans, seals and actually recolors the grout in between tiles so homeowners can rejuvenate their existing floors without having to deal with the expense and hassle of replacing them. The company offers sand-less hardwood floor restoration, natural stone rehabbing and, through a new offshoot called Re-Style Your Tile, refurbishes bathrooms without costly demolition.
Dan Lundstedt worked for Lindberg previously, and took ownership of a Chicago franchise straight out of college. Lundstedt loved the concept, but found out that many potential consumers had no idea their tired tile floors (and the surrounding grout) could be cleaned, sealed or recolored.
“Everyone knows they need a painter to paint their walls, but for grout cleaning people will often call a handyman, they’ll call all sorts of different people, maybe the plumber,” Lundstedt said.
After a great deal of advertising dollars spent to reach Chicago citizens, along with numerous phone calls to Gill and Lindberg, Lundstedt was able to get his business off the ground. His Chicago business is now the system’s No. 1 franchise with $1.2 million in revenue last year. Startup costs are $100,000.
Sir Grout’s breadth of services attracted Brian Fultz, a former 1-800-Got-Junk franchisee who now owns 10 units throughout Texas, Maryland, Florida and Colorado.“What really appealed to me about Sir Grout, is that there were multiple revenue streams available,” Fultz said.
Sir Grout hopes to add a minimum of five franchisees in 2017, and Gill and Lindberg are now looking to develop a spinoff company called Restyle Your Tile. The new venture, which is currently part of Sir Grout, uses thin veneers to install high-end materials, like marble, over aged, discolored tile.
Gill says those who join the Sir Grout franchise system prior to 2017 will be a part of the spinoff with a Restyle Your Tile franchise without having to pay for it.
For all its talk about saving businesses and homeowners money through rehabbing hard surfaces, Sir Grout’s services are generally more expensive than other cleaning providers, and in some cases the difference is stark.
Gill counters that difference pales in comparison to actually replacing surfaces with new materials, as he adds that Sir Grout’s services are about 25 percent the cost of replacement.
As for economists’ alarms that we may be at the top of the current housing cycle, Gill and Lindberg believe their model will stand the test of time.