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.
And the safe rooms, which can be included in a house as it's built or poured and formed for existing homes, protect from more than tornadoes. Zagorski said what got New York investors' interest wasn't storms in the middle of the country but the potential for terrorist attacks on the Eastern Seaboard.
Zagorski said his goal, after a common stock issue, is to achieve revenue of $5.4 million with pretax income of 30 percent in the first year of business up to $112 million and nearly 40 percent pretax income in the sixth year.
That's based on manufacturing 10 safe rooms in the fourth month after receiving the financing, 20 in the fifth month, 60 in the sixth month and adding 20 more units each month.
Zagorski said he owns the factory and offices here debt-free. If he meets his sales projections, Oz will have positive cash flow by its sixth month of operation, and by the sixth year, cash flow will be funding growth and have built a cash balance.
Those numbers, Zagorski said, can be met “with less than 0.2 percent of the market share of homes in high tornado, hurricane and high wind damage regions.” Plus, he said, his projects don't include any revenue from specialty structures or international sales. The units are terrorist, fire, hurricane and earthquake resistant, he said.
He sees demand for larger versions — also monolithically poured; having no seams makes the 4,500-per-square-inch pours even stronger — used at government buildings, day care centers, community centers, assisted-living centers, apartment complexes, mobile home parks and the like.
“I can build these any size. I can build one as big as this factory,” he said.
The structures can protect pharmaceuticals or keep bacteria, viruses or toxins out of circulation, he said.
One customer wanted to protect his race horses; another, his classic cars.
Believers in Oz
Roger Ary is sold. Not only is he on a waiting list to have one installed at his house in Moore — the May 24 tornadoes this year created a backlog for Oz by word-of-mouth alone — but he said he invested $50,000 in the business.
“I'm ecstatically happy about it. I'm scared to death of tornadoes,” said Ary, who owns and runs Brand Name Mattress Gallery, 2750 S Interstate 35 Service Road.
Ary said both the 1999 and 2003 tornadoes came within a mile of his store.
“I just think it's the best investment. I think it's going to be the next big product,” he said. “I think it's going to set me free financially. I'm doing pretty well financially, but I think it's going to put me over the top. But it's not just about money. I think it's a God thing. I think God is preparing to protect some people that need to stay around here for one reason or another.”
Zagorski describes his work on the company and its product in similar terms: He's a believer.
“It's almost like having a pill that cures a certain kind of cancer and having only one box of pills,” he said, explaining the need for a successful IPO to expand. “I'm not in Arkansas. I'm not in Kansas. It's an awful feeling. Whenever there's a tornado outbreak, people call me from their safe rooms: ‘Oh, Mr. Zagorski, thank you!' It blows my mind.”