Innovation with a Twist
Spiral Stairs of America produces stunning, one-of-a-kind designs
The twists and turns of life are often unanticipated. Three decades ago, for example, Tim Haskins was just a small-town guy from North East, Pennsylvania. He was self-taught in welding and fabrication and decided to travel across the country pursuing heavy-duty welding jobs.
A few years and some certifications later, he felt drawn back to his hometown. Haskins was driving around in pursuit of a more creative role when he stumbled upon Spiral Stairs of America. He dropped in, took a test and was hired on the spot.
“The company’s focus on innovative design just drove me to want to learn more and do better,” he says of the Erie, Pennsylvania-based metal craft manufacturer. “It was so cool to know they were creating things that would end up being the centerpiece of an important building or a person’s home.”
Over the years, Haskins’ career continued to advance, step by step. By 2012, when the company’s owner decided to pursue a different endeavor, he was presented with an opportunity he’d never imagined for himself: becoming the owner of the 50-year-old company.
In the years since, Haskins has helped elevate Spiral Stairs of America’s business model. What originally began as a tiny shop serving local welding and fabrication needs has evolved into a nationwide operation that supplies stunningly designed spiral staircases to private, public, industrial, commercial and residential customers.
These aren’t your average cookie-cutter stairs, either. While most of the firm’s competitors offer premanufactured stair kits in a box that must be painstakingly assembled and maintained over time, Spiral Stairs of America produces customized all-welded, sturdy, one-piece designs engineered by a team that can make them as unique and elaborate as their clients can dream up.
“Some jobs are so complex that our team members really have to put their heads together to make them happen,” Haskins says. “People will call us with a project that everyone else said is impossible to do. When we get those calls, we say, ‘You’ve got the right people—we’ll make it a reality.’ ”
Projects That Are Steps Ahead
Whether it’s a spiral staircase for the Horry County Museum in Conway, South Carolina, that was featured on the hit Animal Planet TV show “Tanked,” or an elegant design for a New York City penthouse loft, Spiral Stairs of America seemingly does it all.
“We do spiral stairs, railings, curved stairs, straight stairs, ship ladders—anything to get you from one floor to the next, we’ll help you out,” Haskins boasts.
Treehouse railings and stairs for zip line parks? They do that too. In fact, when it comes to Spiral Stairs of America’s projects, there’s seemingly nothing they can’t do.
One standout project that demonstrates the team’s ability to tackle massive, high-end jobs was with general contractor Distinctive Creations, Inc. for a famous former football player’s enormous lake house in Boston.
“When we joined the project, the house was pretty much finished except for the stairs,” Haskins recalls. “The owner was a big guy, so he wanted a big staircase made out of a certain material that everyone else said was impossible. Our team got together and had a meeting to figure it out. We said, ‘OK, what will work? Here’s what this thing has to look like, so what can we do?’ ”
The end result is a stunning $110,000 aluminum staircase that features a glass railing, a 10-foot overhead clearance and a giant center column that is 20 inches in diameter, compared to the standard 4-inch-diameter column in most spiral stairs. It’s an eye-catching feature that has captured the attention of the neighborhood—and resulted in more work for the company.
“It was just amazing,” Haskins says. “Our client couldn’t believe that we pulled it off when everyone else told him it couldn’t be done. But that’s what we do—we get together and we figure it out.”
“We love the challenges, because there’s always the opportunity to put our spin on something in a way that we weren’t expecting. We’re not mindless order takers, and this is not an off-the-shelf, go to Home Depot and buy a railing kit situation. We turn people’s dreams into reality.” Rob Petrone, Designer and Draftsman, Spiral Stairs of America
Another design that demonstrates the team’s willingness to stretch its creative boundaries was for The Roxbury Motel, located in the Catskills of upstate New York. Spiral Stairs of America was asked to create nine separate staircases—one for each of the tower cottages scattered across the property. These cottages feature one-of-a-kind, fantasy-themed rooms with unique names, and each needed a unique staircase to match.
Haskins and his team brought the owner’s vision to life with a range of inventions, from a gothic, dungeon-like staircase for an apocalyptic room called “Dracula’s Fangs,” to a bright pink spiral staircase for the whimsical fairytale room called “Cinderella’s Gown,” and a towering industrial black staircase that leads to the glass observation deck in “Galileo’s Gate,” to name a few.
“We just loved what the client was doing with this hotel and we were honored to be a part of it,” Haskins says. “We really wanted to help their ideas come to life and we put in a lot of work that I think turned out great in the end.”
A less obscure, but no less important niche for Spiral Stairs of America involves university buildings and university housing projects, which the company has tackled at numerous locations, such as the Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Oklahoma, University of Central Florida and Penn State University. Those projects have ranged from massive entryways to small spiral staircases that make for great space-savers in dorm rooms.
When contractor Burgess Steel hired the firm to build a curved monumental staircase to serve as the main entry showpiece for a building on the New York University campus, it was so large that the team had to manufacture it in the shop and then strategically slice the staircase into multiple pieces that were delivered and reassembled at the site by the steel erector.
“There’s a lot of planning required on both ends with those large pieces, because by the time it leaves our facility, the people who unload and erect it need to understand exactly how to put it back together and where the critical alignment parts are,” Haskins says. “There’s a lot involved in that—a lot of communication and a lot of trust.”
An Elevated Approach to Engineering
Spiral Stairs of America’s leadership takes pride in having earned the trust of countless customers who rely on the company to take an elevated approach to the array of challenging projects. Haskins credits his firm’s success to his team of managers, welders, fabricators, manufacturers and salespeople, who tackle all of it together—every step of the way.
“We’re not individualized here, and pretty much everything we do is a group thing, so that’s why we’re able to take it further,” Haskins says. “With every project, we’re all together from the beginning to make it happen. Their attention to detail is phenomenal, and when others say it can’t be done, we say it can and it will. My team means the world to me. I’m an emotional person and I get teared up when I think of all the team has accomplished.”
According to Haskins, his team does not treat any project as a commonplace, utilitarian structure, but views each as a stunning piece of art that will be placed somewhere special and meaningful. That approach caught the attention of civil engineer Rob Petrone five years ago when he joined Spiral Stairs of America due to its reputation for taking on innovative designs.
“I’ve always had an interest in architecture and art, and this gave me an opportunity to get back to that,” says Petrone, who is the Designer and Draftsman at Spiral Stairs of America. It’s his job to help envision or engineer solutions for customers to make a concept work, no matter how daunting.
“We love the challenges, because there’s always the opportunity to put our spin on something in a way that we weren’t expecting,” he says. “We’re not mindless order takers, and this is not an off-the-shelf, go to Home Depot and buy a railing kit situation. The way we see it, we’re building architectural features that complement architectural designs. We turn people’s dreams into reality.”
For a small-town guy like Haskins, making people’s dreams a reality extends beyond his business—it’s about his community as well.
“Tim’s just the nicest guy,” Petrone says. “He’s always there if someone needs a job or someone needs help. He would give you the shirt off his back.”
When Haskins noticed Spiral Stairs of America was getting a lot of requests from local senior citizens and veterans to install assistance railings to help them safely get up and down their porch steps, he decided to offer the service and materials for free.
“When these people would tell me what they needed, I’d always feel bad because I knew they were on a tight budget,” he says. “If they can’t get up and down a few steps and all they need is something to help them, I figured, why don’t we just offer it to them?”
Although Haskins is an active member of the community, regularly sponsoring local youth events like football and wrestling, he insists his biggest reward is the hugs he often gets when he installs those assistance rails.
“You wouldn’t believe it, but these are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” he says, his voice cracking. “There’s just nothing like having a little old lady give you a hug and tell you thank you for something that’s so small.”
While Haskins may not have anticipated owning his own company, the twists and turns of fate seem to have led him to a height that offers a clear vision. When asked what he wants people to know about Spiral Stairs of America, he says he wants them to understand that his team does much more than spiral stairs.
“We just want people to know that if they need to get to that next level, we’ll help get them there,” he says.
Indeed, whether it’s a high-end job or just an extended hand for help, that seems to be the case.