Rural Missouri Magazine

The stair master
Stacy Bloodgood creates custom-crafted staircases for Missouri homeowners

by Bob McEowen

Stacy Bloodgood, owner of Specialty Stairs and Rail near Lebanon, created this 180-degree spiral staircase for a home owned by Bob and Jane Dowd.

Home sales have collapsed. New construction is off. Prices are down. Workers are being laid off. Turn on the news and everything you hear about the housing industry is bad.

That’s not the case for one Lebanon-based tradesman, who says his work is still climbing. It’s also stepping down, curving left and right and spiraling. Stacy Bloodgood’s Specialty Stairs and Rail has nearly all the work it can handle.

“This business is not immune to the market, but it’s insulated pretty good,” he says with just a hint of an East Coast accent and a staccato delivery that suggests he’s not from around here.
“I have never not been busy,” says Stacy, whose clients continue to build mega-dollar showplace homes at the Lake of the Ozarks and in upscale areas throughout Missouri, despite the struggling economy.

As its name suggests, Stacy’s company specializes in building staircases and railings. In operation in Missouri for less than five years, Specialty Stairs and Rail offers everything from simple straight stairs to spectacular spiral staircases.

“The only thing I do is build wooden staircases and wooden handrails with wooden balusters or metal balusters. That’s it,” Stacy says. “That’s all we do.”

David DeNooy sands a box staircase at Specialty Stairs and Rail’s shop near Lebanon. The pre-assembled staircase will later be installed at a home.

The idea of a specialized staircase business is somewhat new to Missouri, especially outside of the major cities. In most new homes, stairs are traditionally built on-site by the same framers who put up the walls, and few builders offer much beyond a straight path from one floor to the next.

By contrast, Stacy builds as much of a staircase as possible in his workshop, allowing him to arrive at the job site, knock down the temporary construction stairs and install a completed set of stairs in a matter of hours. And while basic risers challenge many builders, Stacy and his crew build stairs that flare, curve and even spiral. In fact, he says, most of his showplace jobs involve some sort of radius.

“Any option that a person can have — if they want them curved or flared — there’s no limitations,” the Laclede Electric Cooperative member says.

Providing options is what Specialty Stairs and Rail is all about. As an example, Stacy points to a sweeping staircase that dominates the foyer of a $2 million home recently constructed in the Palisades Highlands community north of Camdenton.

“There’s a set of plans for this house and this ain’t in it,” Stacy says, recalling his suggestion that the buyers re-evaluate their plans for a straight staircase that divided their foyer, a feature that would have obscured a million-dollar view of the lake.

Stacy proposed a curved staircase, built on a gentle 16-foot radius, along one wall.
“Coming through that foyer, it makes the house just that much more grand,” says Rob Selander, a partner in Seda-Con Construction, which built the home and initially hired Stacy to construct the straight stairs in the blueprint.

Ronnie Wheeler, an employee of Specialty Stairs and Rail, details a finished staircase.

Although he’s just 37, Stacy boasts a quarter-century of experience in the stair business. When Stacy was just 10 years old, he began doing odd jobs for a staircase builder in New Jersey. At age 19, Stacy bought the business, which also specialized in circular staircases, and operated it until five years ago when he took a drive through the Ozarks.

An avid hunter, Stacy traveled to Illinois each year during deer season. One year he decided to include a side trip to Branson. Along the way, he discovered the rugged hills and dense forests of south-central Missouri and decided to stay.

Stacy sold his New Jersey business and moved to Lebanon with his wife, Carla, and daughter, Nicole. His intention at the time was to retire, but he soon grew restless. Stacy rebuilt his shop and began building staircases, primarily for clients back in New Jersey.

Gradually, Stacy began to attract work in mid-Missouri. The biggest obstacle, he says, was convincing contractors of the benefits of hiring a specialized company to build stairs.

“People didn’t even know what we were talking about,” Stacy says, recalling the confusion he encountered when he first tried to pitch his business in mid-Missouri. “We used to carry little stairs around with us in the truck. Even if they saw them, they still didn’t get it.”

Aside from their unfamiliarity with stair building as a specialty trade, builders sometimes struggle to understand how stairs can be made off-site, Stacy says.

Stacy Bloodgood and David DeNooy clamp a wooden stringer onto a form to create a 2-foot-radius spiral. The curved board will be mounted below the balusters of a staircase. The company produces circular staircases of almost any radius.

“They can’t believe that a set of stairs can be made in the shop and fit that good. I hear it all the time,” he says, before offering an explanation that seems obvious to him. “Well, I know where to measure.”

Hiring a stair specialist frees contractors from a time-consuming job that Stacy says few builders really enjoy or excel at anyway.

“We make stairways easy,” says David Chastain, a veteran of the local building scene and now Specialty Stair’s salesman. “Around here, the framing carpenter would build the stairs. They can save three or four days work by hiring a stair builder.”

In addition to minimizing disruption at the job site, Stacy says Specialty Stairs and Rail’s experience and workmanship means that contractors can simply turn all the details of the staircase over to an expert, much like they do with the plumbing and wiring of a house.

“It just takes a big burden off of us,” says Jimmy Dale, the other half of Seda-Con Construction.

“It’s almost a lost art. It’s a craft,” he says of the work Stacy provides. “You have to have special tools and you just have to be set up to do it.”

Specialty Stairs and Rail will build almost any kind of stairs, from “$300 pine box stairs” for an attic or a garage to elaborate circular staircases. Stacy says his company can usually build a simple set of stairs for less than most people pay for materials alone.

Primarily though, Stacy and his crew appeal to builders of high-end homes. In the past three years since his Missouri business has been fully established, he’s built stairs for homes in Lebanon, Springfield, Branson and other communities. His biggest market, though, is at the Lake of the Ozarks where large houses are common and a fabulous staircase completes the impression begun with high ceilings and lake views.

“Your front door, your stairs and your kitchen: That’s what sells a house,” Stacy says, adding that a grand staircase sets a house apart as soon as you enter the door.
The beautiful, sweeping stairs that Stacy creates don’t come cheap. Adding a curve can double the cost of a conventional set of straight stairs, but the end result is worth it, he says.

David marks the location of balusters along a railing at a job site near Camdenton.

“Let’s say, originally they were going to spend $12,000. Now we’re like close to $20,000,” Stacy says, estimating the cost of the curved staircase at the Palisades Highlands home. “It’s double the cost, but it’s quadruple the impression.”

The added cost of an upgraded staircase will be recovered three- or four-fold at the time of resale, he insists.

Stacy spends most of his time building stairs for new homes, but his company also can remove existing stairs and replace them with something more dramatic.

Karen Sapp and her husband, Scott, hired Stacy to replace the existing stairs in their home in the Osage Beach area. The original stairs took a choppy path to the second floor, with sharp bends that reflected the octagonal details in the house. Stacy built a gently curving spiral staircase and created a curved wall in the foyer.

“I never did like the original stairs. From day one, when we first bought the house, I didn’t care for the stairs,” says Karen, who is looking forward to displaying her 12-foot Christmas tree next to her new stairs this year. “The first impression is everything. It’s made it a lot more grand. It’s a much better use of the space.”

The stairs Stacy built for Bob and Jane Dowd are even more impressive. The Dowd home near Sunrise Beach at the Lake of the Ozarks was transformed when Stacy removed an awkwardly placed straight staircase and installed a 180-degree spiral that dominates the couple’s great room.

“Everybody that comes in here, immediately, that’s what they see, and they say, ‘Wow!’” says Bob, a retired St. Louis-area businessman.

Stacy created this staircase for an upscale home at the Lake of the Ozarks. Depending on materials, a staircase like this could cost $20,000 or more. Stacy’s firm leaves stairs unfinished to allow painters to match stains to the house..

After nearly five years in Missouri, word about Specialty Stairs and Rail has begun to spread. Once, 90 percent of Stacy’s work was shipped back to New Jersey. Today, fewer than one in 20 staircases leave Missouri.

Stacy recently moved his business from a rented space in Hartville to land he owns near Lebanon. He’s now expanding the already spacious shop, and a large showroom facility sits empty along Highway 32, waiting for Stacy to find time to build sample staircases and railings.

Although the building trades and housing markets have seen better times, there’s plenty of work at the top of the stairs, where homebuyers expect the best and can afford to pay for it.

There’s also work for a tradesman with a good product and service to make the lives of busy contractors just a little bit easier.

“It takes a whole load off their minds that they don’t have to worry about anything to do with their stairs and their foyer,” says Stacy of the Missouri home builders who have discovered Specialty Stairs and Rail.

“When they hire us, they never have to worry one minute at any time from start to finish.”

For more information, call Specialty Stairs and Rail at 417-533-1104.

Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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