You’ve probably heard that as the nation gets older, the cost of assisted living or long-term care facilities is astronomical and likely will continue to rise.
Thomas Cops, owner of Seniors First Remodeling in Appleton, hopes to provide a solution for this growing problem. For 23 years, Cops served as a co-owner of Cops Construction with his brother, but in 2017, some personal circumstances required him to take a step back from the business. During that time, inspiration struck in the form of a new business idea.
“While at Cops Construction, three of us who were key employees had relatives with disabilities,” Cops says. “We talked quite a bit about serving that need.”
Cops ran with that nugget of inspiration and began Seniors First Remodeling as a company focused on helping families make modifications to their existing homes so they could house and support their aging parents. But soon he had an even more practical idea: a removable and resalable master bedroom module that could be attached easily to an existing home — without all the hassle that can come along with a traditional remodel or addition.
And so Linked Living Home Additions, which is now the primary focus of Seniors First Remodeling, was born. Cops worked with the Fox Valley Technical College Venture Center to create a business plan. He and his small but mighty team (which includes his son, Greg Cops, and project manager, Adam Czekalski) then conquered the somewhat lengthy process of complying with zoning laws, getting the designs approved by the state and completing the inspections that are required for a modular builder.
Now that they’re over those initial hurdles, it’s full steam ahead. They’ve drawn several floorplans for modules they build at their manufacturing facility in Kaukauna. The first model was finished in December.
“We put the model in the lot at St. Bernadette Parish, which also serves as the Thompson Senior Center in Appleton, to host an open house,” Cops says. “We had people there all the time with great interest.”
Cops says about two-thirds of the open house visitors were interested in a solution for providing a comfortable place for seniors, while one-third were exploring ways to care for family members with disabilities. Those are exactly the two markets he was aiming to appeal to with Linked Living Home Additions.
While Cops and his team are looking forward to producing and selling more modules, they’ve also been doing a lot of networking to spread the word about this new offering. From presenting to community groups to connecting with various coalitions and associations committed to caregiving and special needs housing, they’re doing everything they can to show people there are options beyond costly assisted living facilities or total home overhauls.
As he looks to the future, Cops hopes this is a solution he can bring to the wider public. He’s licensed to build and install anywhere in the state of Wisconsin right now, but he has his sights set on even broader horizons.
“We really want this to grow rapidly, and we don’t want it to be something that only Seniors First Remodeling is doing,” says Cops, adding his goal is to collaborate with other contractors and companies to provide information and licensing agreements, and to make these linked modules a more common solution for seniors or family members with disabilities.
“Our vision is to hopefully make a small change in the way that our culture is taking care of their extended family,” he says.