New owner of Fargo’s Deckmasters looking to build on 34-year legacy
After spending 10 years as an employee of the business, Josh Smook is now the new owner of Deckmasters, which specializes in constructing decks and outdoor spaces.
FARGO — Just in time for the backyard season, Deckmasters has come under new ownership.
Josh Smook, a 10-year veteran of the business who most recently served as general manager, acquired ownership from original founders Todd and Lori Funfar.
The Funfars founded the business in 1989 out of their own home. From there, they relocated in 2002 to their current home base at 5507 53rd Ave. S. in Fargo.
Smook, an Aberdeen, South Dakota native, joined the fold in 2013 after finishing his construction management education at North Dakota State University. Even then, 11 years after the Funfars relocated, the deep south Fargo location was considered to be far flung from the city center. Smook noted that the now-busy roadway was still gravel in 2002 when the Funfars first moved.
“We were a true destination back in the day,” Smook recalled to The Forum. “We were always told, ‘You guys are crazy for being all the way down south.’”
Nowadays, the Deckmasters location is right in the center of the action, with much of the metro area’s new home construction taking place on the southside. “Now, shoot, you couldn’t even imagine not being here anymore,” Smook said.
The Funfars' novel choice of location was hardly the first visionary move they took as business owners. When Deckmasters was founded in 1989, the company was the only deck building firm in North Dakota, let alone Fargo. According to Smook, Todd had noted a need for a deck building company while working with his brother’s construction company.
As Smook will recall, the idea of one day owning the business first formed many years ago.
One Saturday, Smook and the Funfars were — appropriately — seated around a fireplace with drinks in hand. It was then that Smook first shared his interest in taking over once the Funfars decided to call it quits.
With Smook rising through the ranks at the company, the Funfars gradually began to transition away from the day-to-day operations of the business. Smook said that the change of ownership was simple because he and the Funfars worked together to develop company policies and best practices.
In fact, the trio were so often on the same page that Smook said the transition boiled down to nothing more than paperwork. “It was just an easy transition because the day-to-day didn’t really change, it’s just the different name on the signature,” he said.
Today, Smook considers the Funfars to be “mentors” and family. It’s that sort of camaraderie that Smook plans to continue fostering among his staff of seven, one of whom is the Funfar's son.
In a statement provided to The Forum, Todd and Lori thanked customers for supporting their business and shared excitement for the future of the company.
“We have enjoyed Deckmasters business since 1989. We were the first deck company in North Dakota and one of the first deck specialty stores in the states. For the last 10 years, we’ve had so much fun mentoring and watching Josh help grow Deckmasters and take it to the next level,” the Funfars wrote. “Over the past few years, we took a major step towards retirement and entrusted Josh to run Deckmasters' day to day operations. We are excited to continue to follow the growth of the business and know Deckmasters will continue to thrive for another 30 years. We wish the entire team at Deckmasters the best. Also, thank you to our past customers, we have made a lot of friends throughout the years of business.”
More than decks
While the business’s name suggests proficiency in deck-building, Deckmasters’ services go beyond just that. “If it’s something that can be done outdoors, we would do it,” Smook said, adding that the lone exception would be large remodeling projects.
Other than decks, Deckmasters also offers shade solutions and sport courts. Both have become increasingly popular. Pergolas, roof structures and awnings provide a respite from the sun, while sport courts offer backyard recreational opportunities for sports such as pickleball.
Deckmasters carries exclusively low-maintenance materials for its decks, made from capped composites or cellular PVC. The materials will weather over time, but require no staining or painting.
To put it simply, Smook said the company will do just about anything to help homeowners maximize their enjoyment of the outdoors. “We have a very narrow window of time spend outdoors that you really want to design your space to be conducive to spending more time out there," he commented.
‘The sky is truly the limit’
Deckmasters is in its busy season, which Smook said runs from the end of February to August. After that, construction begins to wane and the crew prepares for the next year.
Business increases each year, Smook said. Right now, Deckmasters is booking into July. A typical season will see the company work with 75 to 100 customers and retail to an additional 100 to 200 contractors or do-it-yourselfers.
Interest in outdoor spaces picked up considerably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Smook said customers took money that was planned for other activities and invested it into their homes.
People have taken note of the improvements a deck can offer, he said, both in terms of aesthetics and enjoyment. “As of right now, this year looks like it could be one of our best years. We’re coming off a number of good years,” he forecasted.
Smook said he enjoys the chance to work with a greater number of clients than working in home building would allow. “I always said I never wanted to be in home building because you have to hold someone’s hand for far too long,” he joked.
Deckmasters has taken on projects that run from as little as $8,000 to elaborate, six-figure builds. “I always joke with our customers the sky is truly the limit, it just depends on how much you want to spend,” Smook said.
Smook offered two pieces of advice for those interested in revitalizing their outdoor space. First, take pictures of the space and browse online for inspiration. After that, he invited customers to visit the showroom to get a feel for the products and what can be done.
Homeowners should also be clear about their expectations for a project. “I think the biggest thing that homeowners should think through in their processing is just what they want to get out of their project,” Smook explained. “When we can know more of what their thoughts are, how they want to use their spaces, what their overall end goals are, it makes our job a lot easier to help design something for them.”