Fonda shed business continues growth
FONDA — The lockdowns and shutdowns and capacity restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have been bad for many forms of commerce, but there are exceptions.
Ron Rera, the owner of Mohawk Valley Sheds, Cabins and More, said the pandemic has not harmed his business, at 2480 State Highway 30A.
“I think it’s made it much stronger, because people are home,” he said recently, inside a renovated barn he uses as a sales office. “I don’t think that they are vacationing. It’s a good time for them to get their homes organized and to update their sheds with their vacation funds — I would think — and the stimulus money.”
In March 2020, when the pandemic prompted the management in many offices to order their employees to work remotely, and many retail businesses deemed nonessential were temporarily closed, Rera kept his business open. He lives in a house next door to where he works.
Mohawk Valley Sheds, Cabins and More, which opened more than six years ago, indeed sells sheds and cabins — but also offers gazebos, garages, barns, animal enclosures and furniture.
Rera, the sole employee, is not a carpenter. There are examples of sheds, playhouses, horse barns and retreats on the property, but they were fabricated elsewhere. Rera estimated that 95 percent of his products are made in Montgomery County, and most sales are to customers in a 150-mile radius of Fonda.
“Everything is built to order right now, because of the amount of sheds that we’ve already sold this year,” he said. “We have hundreds more on order.”
Smaller sheds are delivered whole to a customer’s property. Larger structures, modular in construction, are assembled at the worksite.
The sales office, in the renovated barn, contains both vintage and new wood. Rera said the wooden surroundings provide the right environment for discussing design ideas and selling prices. He carries some items as stock, like furniture, but the structures typically are customized for the job.
“Most of our customers come in and want it built a certain way,” he said. “And that’s what we like to do.”
Revenues at Mohawk Valley Sheds, Cabins and More have grown annually since the opening, in January 2015, according to Rera, and he remains astonished that he has not experienced any commercial turbulence.
“In the beginning, I didn’t know a thing about the business,” he said. “I knew nothing.”
Rera had been working as the director of transportation at Railex in Rotterdam. The company brought in fruits and vegetables from the West by railroad freight cars for distribution in the East by trucks. There was a lot going on in Rotterdam, and the trade at Railex was steady, but its transportation boss wanted to try a new vocation in a different industry.
“I just have the entrepreneurial spirit,” Rera said. “I looked for something other than the day-to-day type of job that I’d been doing for many years.”
Seven years ago, while online, Rera saw a piece of property listed for sale along the western side of Route 30A in Fonda. He wasn’t familiar with Montgomery County, but decided to drive up and have a look at the land. He was taken by what he found: an old house next to an overgrown hay field.
“There was just something about it,” Rera said. “I said I can do something here. I know I can.”
Rera and his wife, Nancy, moved into the house — which he believes is an old Fonda family property that is about 225 years old — in 2014. Ron Rera began doing some brokerage work out an office in the house. He looked outside at the property, now cleared, and thought about the business possibilities next to the busy highway.
In January 2015, Rera made contact with an Amish shed maker in Montgomery County. He decided to begin offering these sheds for sale. It was a sideline. Whenever someone would stop by to ask about a shed, Rera would leave his home office and walk outside to talk to the potential customer.
At shorter intervals, he was summoned outside to close more and more shed deals. Seven months later, the sales of structures had become a full-time occupation.
“We currently have 13 shops that exclusively build for me right now,” Rera said. “They are building all of our structures.”
All of the shops are run by Amish carpenters, Rera said, and all but one is located in Montgomery County. A shop in Earlville, in Central New York, is used to fulfill orders from customers at the western end of the Mohawk Valley.
Furniture is sourced from Amish and other vendors, but all of it is from local shops.
On a Saturday morning earlier this month, Rera was outside his house when a visitor drove into the parking lot in front of the sales office. Rera waved and approached the car. Yes, he later admitted, there are benefits and drawbacks to living in close proximity to the workplace.
“We’re always here. You could catch me mowing the grass and I’m happy to help you,” he said. “It’s not much personal time, but I don’t mind it. I work a lot, and that’s just me.”