By Sue Botos
Shakespeare might have asked, “What’s in a name?”
Rocky River native and businessman Chris Passen could answer, “More than meets the eye.” Literally.
Passen, who grew up on Morewood Parkway, recently explained the name of his new business, Morewood Cabinet and Design.
“My parents are still on Morewood in the same house they’ve lived in since 1974, hence one of the meanings.” But there’s more to it than that. Passen showed off the cabinet designs in his showroom made of … “more wood.”
A 1991 graduate of Rocky River High School, and now a resident of Westlake, Passen brought his business home after studying renovation finance at Ohio State University. He said he eventually became more attracted to the creative end of the home improvement business than the financial side.
This artistic streak, he said, was influenced by his wife Mayia, who is also a designer, and his parents. He described his mom as “a multitalented designer, craft maker and professional knitter.” Passen recalled that it was not unusual for his dad to roll up his sleeves after a long day of work, and tackle a handiwork project.
“When I started working with remodeling, it sort of evolved from the financial to design and sales,” he said. “The finance side does come in handy. It helps me relate to a customer buying a ‘fixer-upper’ who wants to tie in the cost with the financing.”
This understanding of money issues also, according to Passen, gives him the ability to work with contractors and suppliers to obtain the best costs for customers, as well as assist clients with obtaining renovation loans.
The tendency for people to remodel their home instead of moving has been a kind of boon to the renovation business, said Passen, adding that recent projects for his contractors have ranged from bathroom vanities to kitchen facelifts worth thousands of dollars.
“The sad reality is that a lot of people are upside down with their mortgages and can’t move. They want to make the most out of staying in their current home,” he said.
Thanks to readily available resources and the popularity of home improvement TV shows, Passen said, customers now are more savvy, and know what they want in a kitchen or bathroom remodel. However, there is always room for professional advice.
“One of my favorite moments is when I show a customer an opportunity they might have missed,” he shared.
He noted that, especially in Rocky River, the remodeling bug is contagious. “The more sawdust you smell, the more inspiration to other homeowners,” he stated.
Passen said that, previously, he worked out of the Chandelier Shack in North Olmsted.
“When the building (at 20254 Detroit Road) became available for rent, it appealed to me as a great opportunity,” he recalled. He estimated that the vintage storefront is about 100 years old and, according to local lore, has served as a soda shop and a dress store. A member of the owner’s family still lives in the apartment upstairs. A big plus, according to Passen, is that the shop had been newly renovated over the summer.
“I can draw up designs for you, but you wouldn’t want me doing the actual work,” he said with a laugh.
The shop, which specializes in cabinets, countertops and hardware, officially opened in October.
Although saddened by the announced closing of Ingersoll Hardware, Passen said he looks forward to building a business relationship with Ace Hardware, which will open in February almost next door. He hopes that there will be “much more” to come.