Local garage-organizing specialist handles free makeover for winner of Charleston Home + Design-sponsored contest

Chris Cobb, owner of the Low Country Monkey Bars garage organizing franchise, spends much of his time in his work truck. The van has an oversized photo advertisement on the side (Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/8/29/2013).

Plugging along as a custom-cabinet maker, Chris Cobb last year took a chance on a somewhat related but different business: organizing garage interiors.

“The reason I got into it, my garage was messy,” he explains.

The Daniel Island resident opened Low Country Monkey Bars in the Charleston area last March. He joins close to 150 other dealers nationwide of the Idaho-based Monkey Bars business.

“A garage is one of the largest (rooms) in a home, and most underutilized,” he says. The Monkey Bars garage storage system, he says, enables homeowners to fit all their stuff into a third the space.

Cobb, headquartered in a wood-working shop he procured in the mid-2000s on Wando Lane in Mount Pleasant, spends significant hours driving to and from sites in his well-stocked Sprinter van with the Monkey Bars display on the side.

When meeting with customers, the entrepreneur’s first steps involve discovering what they want and teaming with them to sketch out plans.

Once hatching the design, Cobb sets up a time to organize the garage. He typically installs some or all of these products: non-corroding steel framing bars and hooks that can handle up to 1,000 pounds every four feet to hold things such as bicycles; 24-inch deep shelving systems — able to absorb up to 750 pounds — that are attached along walls, drop down to make items reachable or are secured overhead; and accessories such as stretchy sports bags to store footballs, basketballs and soccer balls.

The usual job lasts four to five hours. The average two-car garage costs $1,800 to finish.

“It’s a very versatile system,” says Cobb, who’s a one-man operation save for occasional help on installation. He doesn’t offer plastic storage bins but recommends them — the containers can be purchased for around $10 apiece at local discounters and then labeled.

When he designs a garage organization plan, Cobb asks the homeowners to think of three piles for their outdoor stuff. One pile sports long term storage, which fits in high-up bins or shelves; one pile counts short-term storage that’s easy to reach. There’s a key third pile, too, things to discard or otherwise not keep in the garage, he says.

Cobb as yet hasn’t waded into paint and epoxy flooring systems, which provide a firm seal and keep things clean, noting the applications are time-consuming. At the same time, he sees the benefits of the protective, vaguely shiny floors, fashioning one at his own home. The average cost is $475 a square foot or $2,000-$3,000 for an average-size garage.

The bulk of Cobb’s projects involve existing homes but also include new construction or spec homes, which account for about 20 percent of the business.

“It’s a fun company,” he says.

The entrepreneur says he’s been trying to get the word out about Monkey Bars and the garage organizing field, which gained traction in the mid-2000s before skidding in the housing downturn and only recently starting to build back up.

“Right now, the biggest challenge in the past 1½ years is introducing the product,” he says. “We keep expanding the marketing. It’s definitely an upward trend,” he says.

That’s one reason why Cobb offered a free garage makeover as part of the Charleston Home + Design show early this year.

Low Country Monkey Bars completed the garage interior work this summer. Cobb revamped the garage of contest winner Rob Davis and his wife Kasia, daughter Izabella, 11, and son Benjamin, 4. They live in the Rivertowne neighborhood in Mount Pleasant.

“We’re from Chicago,” Rob Davis says. “Originally coming from the land of basements, this came in handy,” he says. Their house doesn’t include an attic, and the garage’s 14-foot high ceiling made it difficult to install do-it-yourself shelving or storage spaces.

Even so, the Davises realized they needed to act.

“There was a lot of stuff everywhere,” enough that the couple couldn’t park a car in the two-car garage, he says. As part of the makeover, they also “decided what we really wanted to keep.”

The family likes the finished product. “It’s really worked out well so far,” says Davis, noting he built a storage area on his own in the space above the garage doors when opened.

Still, he notes that homeowners need to do their part to keep a garage organized.

“Part of it means putting everything in place (and) putting it back.”

For more information on Low Country Monkey Bars, call Cobb at 843-647-6357 or visit www.garagestoragecharleston.com.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.