Gardner first opened Professional Home Improvement in 1978 on Hillside Drive behind what is now the Delta Plex, just a short distance from his childhood home on Turner Street. Almost a decade later he purchased the three buildings on the southwest corner of West River Drive and Lamoreaux Avenue in downtown Comstock Park and moved the business.
The buildings are steeped in local history. The main building, 3955 West River Drive NE, was built in the late eighteen hundreds as a hotel and saloon. Hanging in Gardner’s office is a framed advertisement for a “Game Dinner” that took place there in 1905. It’s reputed the hotel was also a brothel. The building now houses the Professional Home Improvement offices and the showroom filled with samples of everything from siding to windows to roofing.
The building behind the main building, 126 Lamoreaux NE, was originally a livery where horses for the hotel guests were kept. It housed a tool and die business when Gardner bought it, and is now used for storage and a workshop. The small building directly on the corner, 3957 West River Drive NE, was a gas station for many years, and housed a pool company when Gardner bought it. It is now part of the showroom. Pictures of the buildings from decades ago hang over the door to Gardner’s office, and he noted that, “People have given us stuff, told so much stuff about this building.”
The business is a family affair. Gardner is president, his wife Luann is vice-president, his brother Bob is secretary/treasurer, and his son Blake is general manager. Gardner graduated from Union High School and attended what was then Grand Rapids Junior College where he studied marketing. His wife graduated from Texas Art Institute where she studied interior design. There are 40 employees and regular subcontractors.
Customers can get all forms of exterior and interior improvements for their home or business, said Gardner, and the company offers in-house financing and senior citizen discounts. Gardner is proud to point out the company’s A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and their membership in the Home Builders Association. Gardner said he never knows what his workers will find when they start tearing a roof or wall off, adding they’ve even found cigarette cartons nailed on the walls for insulation.
Gardner says the Comstock Park location has been a good one. “We love it here,” he said. “It’s close to the expressway. People are friendly.” “We’ve got a huge referral business, repeat business,” he noted. “We’re planning on staying in Comstock Park for many, many years.”
When he’s not working, Gardner is an avid hunter and fisherman and having made 47 trips to Alaska, with his wife accompanying him on six of those.