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Outdoor Kitchen Concepts appeals to all homeowners

If you can't stand the heat, you can always take the kitchen outside. At least, that's what more and more homeowners are doing, and Las Vegas-based Outdoor Kitchen Concepts, manufacturer of grills, modular kitchens, firepits, fireplaces and accessories, is helping them do so.

The five-year-old company entered the marketplace at just the right time. The outdoor living area trend was fresh on the minds of industry executives, and consumers had just begun seeing hints of what was to come on cable networks like HGTV and shelter publications such as Better Homes & Gardens and Architectural Digest. The question was whether the average, middle-income household would put its money into a back yard? Today, the answer seems to be a resounding "yes."

"The average person spends more than the rich and famous," said Bruce Spangrud, founder and president of Outdoor Kitchen Concepts. "This is because the Average Joe wants to look like the rich and famous."

Spangrud's expertise in the field goes beyond the company's birth. He has been building islands for 10 years, first starting The Islands, a company which manufactured prefab islands. He eventually sold the company, and then founded Outdoor Kitchen Concepts. Spangrud's original intent was to be a stainless steel company, but soon that turned into creating a solution to the timely and costly nature of manufacturing and delivering islands.

He created a modular system of stainless steel grills and outdoor kitchens that can produce more than 1.9 million configurations. Using a modular system, delivery can be done using not a crane, but instead a dolly, and then put together right in the customer's back yard, saving money on delivery and time, and also alleviating headaches.

"Getting prefab islands into a back yard is challenging," he said. "Now, you have a modular system and one person, versus a crane and four or five people."

The islands feature patented clip-and-screw and joint systems to ease installation, and the self-cleaning grills are built with 16-gauge 304 heavy duty brushed stainless steel. The grills are the only unregulated grills in the marketplace because temperatures can reach 1,160 degrees, compared to 400 to 650 degrees on an average grill.

Despite challenges brought on by the cost of stainless steel — "it used to be 92 cents per pound now it's $2.59 a pound," Spangrud said — Outdoor Kitchen Concepts is in fast-forward mode when it comes to growth. The company's distribution channel includes company-owned stores, franchises, dealers, direct to builder and OEM. In 2006, 23 franchises stores were sold, and in 2007, between 40 and 50 stores will open. At the end of last month, the company moved from its 35,000-sq.-ft. headquarters to a new 140,000-sq.-ft. location, still in Las Vegas. Spangrud also is looking to expand its dealer base across the nation.

"I expect to double or triple in size every year," Spangrud said. "Sales have increased — incredibly increased — based upon flexibility and options for the customer."

The company showrooms feature design centers, where customers can build customized outdoor kitchens in the store. Each module is placed on wheels so customers can move things around, adding a bar here or a warming drawer there. A variety of stone, tile, stucco and granite coverings are available, and, just four months ago, Spangrud developed a ModBar program, which introduced coordinating bars and tabletops.

The average sale at Outdoor Kitchen Concepts falls between $15,000 and $30,000, with its lowest price point at $1,995 for a complete island.

The most popular grill line is the Gourmet series. The grills come in two-, three- or four- burner configurations and can produce more than 900 degrees of heat.

"Homeowners are making total environments outside," Spangrud said. "A lot of it has to do with wanting additional space and not being able to afford to move."

The purpose of the outdoor kitchen is for family, get-togethers and enjoyment, Spangrud added. "Our motto is stay home and enjoy your back yard," he said.

Outdoor Kitchen Concepts' modular outdoor kitchens can produce more than 1.9 million configurations.

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