Jenshau offers mobile home alternative | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | April 11, 2018 5:00 pm
Last Updated: April 11, 2018 at 10:56 am
About three years ago Sonny Miles decided to get off the couch and get back to work. Jenshau was the result.
Miles, with decades behind him in the shipping container business, had a container company on Mount Carmel Road that was doing pretty well and came to the attention of a larger, publicly-traded company.
“We got an offer to sell it and we did,” Miles said. About a year later, the new owners closed the Mount Carmel Road facility.
The sale contract contained a four-year non-compete clause that put Miles on the couch.
During that time, Miles had back surgery and spent about a year in rehab. “I stayed busy,” he said.
When those four years elapsed, he said, “it was time to get off the couch and do something. I need to be working and doing something. I enjoy doing it.”
Miles, an Air Force brat, was born in Myrtle Beach. “I got certified as a welder right out of high school — it was something I was always fascinated with,” he said.
With his certification in hand, Miles got a job at a shipping container shop in Charleston in 1981. “I stayed with them for 21 years.” He climbed the corporate ladder within the company until it closed down. Then it was time to strike out on his own.
The new company’s name is the result of a promise kept.
When his son, Shaun, and his daughter-in-law, Jennifer, were in college, Miles said he told them “to get their master’s and I would name the company after them.”
Financing for his first company was “taking two pennies and rubbing them together.” Jenshau’s financing follows the same pattern. “Everything here is on my dime,” Miles said.
Miles purchased approximately 100 acres of land on both sides of McLeod Road, about a mile west of the I-95 interchange, and set up the manufacturing area and corporate office.
Miles envisioned the office complex as a showcase — an example of Jenshau’s ability to retrofit a shipping container. “The office was an investment I wanted to make.”
“It is eight new containers joined together,” Miles explained. “We like to use new, but we will build out of old containers.”
“We did all the design work and the guys put it all together,” Miles said. The guys are some of the workers at his former business. “My main goal was to open up and put some of the people back to work who had worked with me before,” he said.
Jenshau’s employees have become adept at multi-tasking. “Our welders aren’t just welders,” Miles said. “They are trained to handle other duties.”
It took about a year to construct the new business’s facilities, and Jenshau has now been in operation about two years.
Jenshau’s offices were built with an eye to the future with several offices and a room set aside for a drafting office.
With an interior that rivals any stick-built office, the building allows him to show potential customers some other advantages.
The office, which has two heating and air conditioning units, has an electric bill that averages about $200 a month.
It also demonstrates another plus that comes in handy in hurricane-prone areas.
Using a concrete and metal foundation system, a building constructed of retro-fitted steel shipping containers can withstand 150-mile-per-hour winds.
Miles used Hurricane Matthew to test that claim. “I sat here and watched the trees folding over.” Inside the building, “you would not even know the wind was blowing.”
Most of the company’s business in its early stages has been turning shipping containers into facilities for the federal government: facilities that can be put to work as training centers or communication shelters.
Inside the secure manufacturing area, located behind a wall made of stacked storage containers, a single shipping container has been transformed into a residence, with several bump-outs built onto the rectangular container to add more room to the interior.
Like Jenshau’s office, the inside has almost all the amenities found in a stick-built home.
In a manufacturing building, workers are working on more housing prototypes.
“We’re working on new designs for FEMA.” Miles envisions Jenshau’s creations replacing the mobile homes that the federal disaster agency uses as emergency shelters.
Miles’ plan is to construct emergency shelters and have them at the Jenshau facility, ready to be transported to disaster sites.
Although there have been no formal discussions with FEMA, Miles said, “We have made some pitches. We have let them know we are here.”