“I’ve always been pretty handy,” said Eric Ray, Owner of Rays Reconditioning, a Massillon, Ohio remodeling company. "I was the guy my mom and aunts called when they needed something fixed. I was very passionate about it."
Ray founded the company in 2018 with a clear mission. “We’re in an era where we’ve gotten away from hard work and customer service. My entire goal is to create a different image of how people view contractors. People have good reason to think of us like used car salesmen or lawyers, but I'm the guy that will tell you not to pay $5 per square foot of tile when I can get that same floor for $1.99. One of our trademarks is throwing in a little extra, like doing a trim job for free. Sometimes, I'll give customers a quote but tell them they don't need me for the job. They can save some money, do it themselves, and I'll even send them links on how to do it. ‘Anything else I can help you with? Just give us a call.’ And they do. Our customers trust us with their home, and that’s a lot of trust, so we use our knowledge and skilled craftsmanship to improve their quality of life,” he said.
"This work never stops, but I'm up for the challenge. I'm building something. I don't have any quit in me."
Ray was intentional in having the company Rays Reconditioning, with the name being plural instead of possessive. "Rays Reconditioning is plural because it’s not just me. I have four sons and three daughters. I started the company to create a legacy for me, my family, and my grandchildren. Not only to build generational wealth, but also to give us all something to be proud of when we see our name on that truck,” Ray said.
Ray also looks out for his employees. He nurtures new industry talent through competitive
salaries and partnerships with vocational institutions, allowing apprentices to gain credits and pay concurrently. He even mentors them when they want to start their own businesses. “I don't want my workers ever to feel handcuffed to my business. If you want to start your own painting business, I'll help you get your LLC. Now I can contract with you to paint because I know you're good. There are too many houses for me to keep all the good
workers to myself," he said.
Rays Reconditioning started with a massive project — a 20,000 square ft. gym. Ray quickly
discovered he needed a loan. “When I started the business, I started it from nothing. I’m a
carpenter by trade, but I had gone to school for business and marketing. I had my 401k from
my last job. We were blessed with a contract with a Cleveland franchise called Onyx Gyms. We'd never worked a single job as Rays yet. I went in bold and confident, but I got back in my car and said, 'Oh man. What did we get ourselves into?'" Ray laughed. "I had to buy materials to start the job, but I didn't have money for all the tools I needed. I thought the only option I had for a loan were those hard money lenders who blow up your phone all day and want 35-40% plus an annual sign-up fee. I did what I had to, but I paid that loan off as soon as possible. Eight months later, we got the whole gym done, and it was beautiful. We got our paycheck. I said, 'look, we're not doing those hard money lenders no more. I tell my kids today, ‘If you get a paycheck, don't put $5 on the bill — pay the bill off. They don't teach you in school how to be financially literate. You have to figure that out on your own.’
'I was just so blessed that I ran into ECDI at the time that I did because they threw out a life raft when we were drowning."
As the company expanded, Ray once again found he needed loans, but this time he turned to ECDI. “We partnered with the Minority Business Association here in Stark County, and
ECDI came out and gave us information about loans with good interest rates. We'd been in business a year, but I had to be in business for two years for the type of loans I was trying to get. We were able to get SBA loans through ECDI at a really low percentage, which was excellent. Later on, they helped me restructure in a time of financial distress. So that was amazing. Finding working capital is a major challenge. I was just so blessed that I ran into ECDI at the time that I did because they threw out a life raft when we were drowning.”
Ray, a Chicago native, gives back to his Massillon community often. “I was a good student,
but I came up around gangs in a neighborhood where if you looked people in the eye,
they wanted a fight, but this community in Massillon has shown me nothing but love. I stand true to Chicago, but I am a Massillonian,” said Ray. Every year the company supports a community basketball tournament fundraiser complete with bouncy houses and free food. “We're very involved in the city, and anything that my church or its members need, we volunteer to do it. We also do programs like Cool Day, where Lowe's and Home Depot donate materials, and contractors will redo a whole city block. I’ve been blessed with a lot, so I’m here to give back,” Ray said.
Rays Reconditioning may soon offer other services. “When we started, we took on every job that came our way, but we’ve surpassed the handyman role. We’re flipping entire houses with drywall, electrical, and plumbing. That said, if your water heater leaks in the middle of the night, we want to be the ones looking after your house. We’re looking at starting a Rays Recon Handyman branch. We flip houses for other companies now, but we want to buy some places and do it for ourselves. So you might also see Rays Recon Properties in the future,” he said.
“They say in my industry, work slows down in the winter," Ray said. "I've never had a slowdown in over five years. Never. I'm hiring four people this year. We work all over Stark County and Canton too. Whether you spend $5 or $5,000 with us, you'll always get the same high-quality work and service. This work never stops, but I'm up for the challenge. I'm building something. I don't have any quit in me."