According to Lou Ann Schafer, senior marketing manager for Gladiator(R) GarageWorks, 56 percent of all home workshops are in the garage. Garages are also the second most common location for a refrigerator. If you’re a woodworker or DIYer who likes the occasional cold beverage out in the shop — or if you just hate to throw out an old fridge that still works — neither of these facts are probably all that surprising.
But you might be interested to learn that Gladiator GarageWorks is a division of Whirlpool Corporation — an industry leader in home appliances. What’s Whirlpool doing in the garage?
Quite a lot, as it turns out.
“About eight years ago, we at Whirlpool were conducting an innovation experiment: how could we sell more refrigerators for the home? We already knew that people were putting their old refrigerators in the garage, which is about the worst thing you can do with them. They’re simply not designed to handle the extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations that occur in a garage, and older refrigerators will waste an incredible amount of energy there.”
So, the company went into hundreds of garages conducting market research in order to invent a “better” garage fridge: the GarageWorks Chillerator(R). It’s specifically designed to work in a garage environment and in temperatures ranging from 0 to 110 degrees. While gathering that data, Lou Ann says Whirlpool made another important discovery: we not only need a better way to keep our beverages and other kitchen perishables cold; we also need better solutions for garage storage.
“Years ago, people didn’t collect as much stuff as we do now, but our buying habits have changed. Generally, we also knew our neighbors better than we do now. People were more inclined to borrow and return things, but that trend has also shifted. Nowadays, we tend to go out and buy what we need instead of asking around…and a lot of that accumulation ends up in the garage. If you are also trying to use your garage for a workshop, there’s a lot going on there already, especially if you outfit it with lots of different mismatched cabinets and components. We thought our new Gladiator division could provide a more complete, integrated solution.”
Of course Whirlpool was already “very good at bending steel” and had many of the facilities and systems in place to begin manufacturing metal garage organizers as well as larger appliances. When Gladiator GarageWorks launched in fall 2002, it came to market with the Chillerator refrigerator, several modular drawered and tall shop cabinets and a maple-topped workbench.
Since that time, the GarageWorks product line has continued to expand. The company now offers a Premier line of GearBox, GearChest and GearLocker cabinets in several sizes and configurations with drawers or shelves. The cabinets have welded steel construction with no further assembly required. Or, you can buy Ready-to-Assemble GarageWorks cabinets that have similar styling to the Premier line but cost less, but there are fewer model options. Many of the freestanding cabinets and tool chests have casters, and some can be mounted to the wall. All have locks, tread plate door styling and recessed handles for a rugged look, plus a powdercoat finish for added durability.
“Aside from cabinets and drawers for storing smaller tools, workshop guys also want heavy-duty workbenches, so we now offer both 6- and 8-ft. steel workbenches with maple tops. Recently, we added a bamboo benchtop option, which has the strength of maple but is a more rapidly renewable alternative,” Lou Ann commented.
Two areas people struggle with most, in terms of garage storage, are stowing bicycles and long-handled tools. So, Gladiator designed two different wall systems to solve these problems as well as make garage walls a harder-working part of the storage equation. One option consists of 12-in. x 8 ft. GearWall panels that are rated to hold 50 lbs per square foot. The panels have a tongue-and-groove design to lock together seamlessly, and a series of channels provide attachment points for hanging accessories. There is also 6-in. x 4-ft. GearTrack Channel, which is rated to hold 75 lbs per linear foot. Both products can be screwed to wall studs and are made to withstand the temperature and humidity extremes of a garage environment. Gladiator makes a wide variety of hooks, mesh baskets, caddies, tool holders and other accessories to maximize the functionality of either wall storage system.
In addition to giving your garage walls a facelift, Gladiator offers a PVC snap-together floor tile system to spruce up the garage floor. It is available in six colors, plus optional slatted drain tiles. The tiles create a floating floor that installs without fasteners or adhesives. You can take it up and relocate it from one garage shop to the next.
GarageWorks appliance options have expanded to two refrigerator/freezer sizes and a trash compactor. More shop appliances are forthcoming in the next 12 to 18 months.
“The advantage of modular components like ours is that you don’t have to buy it all as one big bulk purchase. You can get started for as little as $50 or $60, then add on more pieces as you like and as needed.
Lou Ann says there’s no particular segment of the home workshop market that buys more product than another, but customers do seem to fall into two camps: the “proud homeowner” who wants the garage to be as neat and organized as the rest of the house, or the hard-core garage enthusiast who is driven to organize around specific hobbies — like woodworking or auto repair.
Either way, it seems we all need some degree of garage organization, and Lou Ann encourages us to think long-term. “You will need garage organization your entire life. When you buy those first products, think about how well they work together and can move with you from one house to the next. Our product line is designed to be fully compatible, wherever and whenever that time comes.”