DEL CITY — Calling an Oz aboveground safe room a “storm shelter” doesn't seem to do it justice.
It's a bunker, a 20-ton solid concrete-and-rebar pillbox bunker, with 8-inch-thick walls, a 12-inch-thick floor and an 18-inch-thick ceiling — and that's the small model: 5 by 5 feet, room for five people and tall enough for a 6-foot-4-inch man to stand perfectly upright.
Price tag: $7,999 within 30 miles of Tornado Alley's bull's-eye, Oklahoma City, about twice the price of the typical storm shelter.
The larger model, handicap accessible, is 5 by 8 feet, with the same thick walls, and weighs in at 30 tons for a heftier price tag: $10,999, about three times the typical home shelter.
But there is nothing typical about Oz Saferooms' product — solid, one-piece units, no seams, formed in a monolithic pour — or the company's approach to marketing.
Known in Moore
Andrew Zagorski, company president, has been at this a dozen years now, but chances are you haven't heard of Oz unless you or a neighbor own one of its safe rooms — or you live in Moore.
In one neighborhood there, houses leveled by the May 3, 1999, tornado were replaced by houses outfitted with Oz safe rooms in a pilot project, only to be wiped away by another tornado May 8, 2003. The 42 safe rooms stood unscathed.
“Call these other guys (other storm shelter makers) and ask them to drop a Dolese (Bros.) cement truck on top of it. They'll say hell no,” said Andrew Zagorski Jr., company vice president.
The implication: Oz safe rooms have already been tested by having cars dropped on them, which is not an unusual situation at all when a tornado strikes.
Years of R&D
Since 2003, Zagorski Sr. has been quietly doing research and development, scoping out potential markets, consulting with weather experts and government planners, firming up a business plan and lining up investors. Oz has 173 private investors, most of them in New York where Zagorski Sr. spent most of his career as a concrete form specialist.
As enthused as he was, the elder Zagorski had retired. Even after federal emergency planners contacted him in 1998 on a recommendation for his expertise in cast-in-place structural concrete, even after the 1999 tornado, even after the 2003 tornado, he was in no rush.
“I wanted to show people it was doable,” he said,
In a media room at the Oz offices and factory at 3216 SE 30 in Del City are news clips and photos of storm damage, documents from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and handouts about wind resistance and what FEMA says are the best specs for aboveground shelters, as well as other technical data and copies of a business plan.
“There is an alternative to taking risks,” said marketing rep Jerry Moland.
IPO to fund school
An initial public offering is in the works. FORCE Group Ltd., an Oklahoma City investment capital management firm, is helping Oz get ready for the IPO, which Zagorski hopes will send the company sky high. FORCE Group called Zagorski's plan a “unique and awesome project.”
Building safe rooms — using a special concrete form for which a patent and process are pending — is just the start. Zagorski envisions not just a humming factory in Del City, but manufacturing plants across Tornado Alley and anywhere else tornadoes strike, which this year has included climes far from the Plains. The Del City headquarters will be the national training center.