When the coronavirus pandemic forced restaurants to serve their patrons outside, many erected and other types of makeshift structures to protect their customers from the elements, while others simply put up barricades on streets and set up tables.
Founders Michael Carrier and Maggie Kavan the idea to create something businesses could easily set up but that have a more permanent feel, and ModStreet was born.
"ModStreet is a pandemic baby," Zalneraitis says. "When everything shut down, they realized that if these businesses couldn't get outside, they wouldn't survive."
From its 3,000-square-foot shop in Durango, the company manufactures easy-to-assemble "parklets," enclosures and barricades that can be used to create community park space, expand restaurant seating, or even serve as bus shelters and small stages. "We make all of our parts in-house," says Zalneraitis. "We currently outsource our powder coating, clip manufacturing, and bending for sheet metal."
The clip system ModStreet uses enables about four people to assemble half of a small parklet within 10 minutes -- without using many tools. "They're basically Legos," Zalneraitis says. "A mallet and a leveler is all you need. There's not a lot of science that goes into this -- you don't need to be an engineer."
The cost of the structures ranges from $110 per square foot to $400 per square foot, depending on the features a customer requests. Optional features include a roof, custom configurations for posts, custom signs, hanging planters, and light poles. "Not every project is custom, but we know how important branding is for a town or a restaurant," Zalneraitis says. "We want this to be who you are as a town or a business."
A few years ago, just a few dozen towns had outdoor dining while now there are thousands, Zailneriatis says. Although the benefits of the structures during the pandemic have been evident, it's not always easy to get municipalities to buy into the concept. "We hear a lot about regulatory compliance," he says. "ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] comes up the most, and we've got that solved. More towns are putting in building regulations and meeting those regulations is a challenge because they're different in each town."
For a company that's not yet two years old, ModStreet has grown quickly. It's now in five states -- California, Florida, Utah, Texas, and Colorado -- and exceeded $1 million in revenue during its first full year in operation.
Challenges: "The biggest challenge really is building inventory so we can reduce our production time and vastly reduce potential supply chain risks," says Zalneraitis. "Building inventory is always tough when you are a new business because you are trying to balance your cash needs and material needs."
Like many startups, another of ModStreet's top challenges is getting the word out about its products. "There are a lot of places that don't know things like this are manufactured," Zalneraitis says. "A lot of them have done it themselves for the last two years and know they can do it. Overcoming that thinking is a challenge."
When customers do learn about ModStreet's parklets, managing their expectations about how quickly they can get them can be difficult. "It's not a product you can order and have in two weeks -- it takes eight to 12 weeks, depending on the size," Zalneraitis says.
Opportunities: The lack of awareness about ModStreets products is also where the opportunity lies. "It's a hitherto unknown market," Zalneraitis says. "Parklets exist but not on a mass scale. The question is how far can we take this."
Expanding the parklets beyond outdoor dining to bus shelters, vendor stands and stages are all in the realm of possibilities, he says. "Who else can we serve? There are opportunities in residential markets. It's just a matter of where we expand and taking the right steps so we don't end up doing something we regret."
Needs: Internally, ModStreet needs to systemize its processes and identify key positions so it can scale efficiently -- as well as more space.
Externally, the company needs to work on building market awareness. "We want to be a national player that people know and recognize the name of," Zalneraitis says.