By Lindsay Field Penticuff
It was by happenstance that Lisa Carlquist, president of Artisan Custom Closets in Marietta, fell into the closet business altogether.
“I came to it as most great things happen, completely by accident,” Carlquist says. “I met someone in a dry cleaner, believe it or not, and started a conversation, and he said I should come to work for him selling closets.”
Carlquist admits that she didn’t really know what that meant at first, but after accepting another meeting, she started working for him. “I stayed there about six months — it was a national franchise — until I discovered that I loved the business, but I wasn’t at the right company. So, I left and went to work for a local company, where we had much more creative flexibility than the franchise,” she says.
Carlquist worked for the local business for about 14 years until they sold to a larger company, then upon realizing that she didn’t really know how to do anything else, she decided to connect with a friend — and now business partner, Thomas Tatzel — and they started Artisan Custom Closets.
Originally, Artisan began as a division of another company in March 2011, but they broke off and formed their own corporation in January 2014. “Most of our business is master closets,” Carlquist says. “That’s what people think of when we first start a conversation, whether it’s in their existing home or they are building a new home.”
And while she says the name can be a bit deceptive, Artisan actually custom designs spaces for pretty much any storage space, and always has, including closets, offices, pantries, garages, entertainment centers, wall beds, laundry rooms and craft rooms.
The second-largest space they custom design is garages. “Garages are huge, especially in the South and in Atlanta,” Carlquist says. “In the spring, our garage doors are open all the time, your neighbor can see in and when you have a complete neat garage full of garage closets, people stand up and take notice.”
Something Carlquist says she often tells customers when they are thinking about getting their garage designed: “It’s the last thing I see when I leave home in the morning and it’s the first thing I see when I get home in the afternoon, so it leaves a big impression of what the rest of your day and your house feels like. If it’s all completed and organized, it just feels better and looks better.”
And Carlquist and her team do their best to streamline the process for customers. All parts are manufactured locally at their warehouse off Wylie Road in Marietta, and it’s about six to eight weeks to installation after a client signs their contract.
The design process is five steps:
1. People call and Artisan does a free, in-home consultation. They will send one of their 24 designers to a client’s home or business, where they share samples, measure the space, and take an inventory of everything a customer wants to store. So, whether it’s a pantry, master closet or garage, they are measuring, taking inventory, and writing everything down so that they can come up with the perfect plan for each client.
2. They create customized computer-aided design (CAD) designs, which have very realistic renderings so that customers can get an actual feel for what their designed space is going to look like.
3. Once designs are complete, Artisan tries to get customers to come into their showroom off Wylie Road in Marietta so they can see, touch, and feel what the space may look like when complete. This is their opportunity to make changes and do whatever a customer wants to make sure the space is exactly what they want.
4. Artisan also offers to prep and paint a space before closets are installed. In a master closet, for example, they’ll go in and tear out everything in a customer’s current closet, patch all the holes in the walls and put two fresh coats of paint on it. This is a separate service.
5. Depending on the size of the job, Artisan will send up to five installers to help install closets. If it’s a whole house, it could take five installers a whole week to complete the job. But for the average master closet, one installer can complete an install in one day.
With a total staff of 89, Artisan can support customers from start to finish within a 100-mile radius of metro Atlanta. Carlquist says they also do a lot of business at Lake Oconee in Greensboro, so she has two sales reps there. “The biggest difference between us and other closet companies is that we are not a ‘one-call close,’ where we come see you, draw it up and push you to sign on the spot,” she says. “We are much more about educating our customers about the process and how it works. It’s why we encourage people to come to our showroom so they can see, touch and feel the products, and see what we have to offer.”
It’s this hands-on approach and the incredible work by Artisan’s team that got them recognized by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce this year as the 2022 Small Business of the Year. “It was a great surprise and is a huge honor to be recognized by the Cobb Chamber,” Carlquist says. “We had been in the top 25 the last seven years in a row but had never won.”
The honor is based on an on-site visit to the business, in addition to a company’s growth, culture of their business, the length of time employees are at a business, and how a company is giving back to the community. “We’ve worked for several years with Calvary Children’s Home in Powder Springs,” says Carlquist when asked about their community involvement, “but we’ve also volunteered and donated to MUST Ministries. This past year, we also worked with Cobb Christmas, which we collected about 200 gifts for.”
Giving back and supporting the community has always been important to Carlquist. “When I started this business, I didn’t have anything. I had lost everything from the last business. My husband had passed away, and I was kind of starting over. So, it is just really important as we’ve grown and become successful to share not only with the community, but with my employees,” she concludes.