Hurricane season is upon us and Kaleigh and Richard Rickard, owners of Smart Guard Shutters, are helping residents prepare ahead of time. As this week’s Big Five guest, Kaleigh shares how they got started in this thriving industry.

Tell readers a bit about yourself and how you ended up in Palm Coast.

My name is Kaleigh Rickard (KAY-LEE). My husband Richard and I have been married for 11 years. We have 2 sons ages 8 and 3. We moved from Sevier County, Tennessee just after the recession in 2010. We were both beach people so when Richard’s job took him to Daytona Beach we decided to pack up and make it a permanent move. We started looking to buy a house in 2011 and our agent drove us to a few homes in Palm Coast. We immediately fell in love with the area and knew this is where we were meant to be.

 After moving to Florida, I found a job making use of my major in marketing (shocking I know!). I worked at an advertising agency in Daytona for 10 years. When Covid happened, I started to home school our oldest son. I decided to lessen my load by leaving my job in advertising, at which point I had become the Director of Finance. I now do all the advertising and financial matters for our own company, Smart Guard Shutters, while still homeschooling and networking locally as time allows. I am also on the board for our local Home Builders Association.

How did you get into the shutters business? 

Being from Tennessee, neither of us had a clue about hurricanes or hurricane shutters. We didn’t know what a hurricane was really like until we went through Hurricane Matthew. It was crazy trying to get plywood, generators, gas, water, etc. We waited forever for a shipment of plywood at Lowes and then we had to come home and cut everything and put it on the house. Man was it a pain. We decided to keep the plywood (which takes up a LOT of room) so we didn’t have to go through all of that again.

 Then came Irma and we were glad we had kept the plywood. However, the plywood was cumbersome and heavy and it damaged the outside of our house when we put it up. We started looking into putting hurricane shutters on our home. After looking around were very discouraged to find not a lot of options in this area. We ended up installing shutters on our home ourselves. While running our other business we were told multiple times we should look into doing hurricane shutters. Originally we thought it was a crazy idea but after much research and education Richard felt led to try it and became a Licensed Hurricane Shutter Installer. We started Smart Guard Shutters in 2018 to bring a local option to Palm Coast. We now proudly offer 7 different types of hurricane protection and manufacture several of them at our warehouse off US1 in Bunnell.

In hurricane season, what should homeowners or business owners do to prepare? 

 It is important to have a plan. Know what you are going to do, Stay or Leave? Where will you go and what road will you take to get there. You need to think everyone beach side will be evacuated and probably South Florida too, so traffic becomes an issue. You additionally need to think about what supplies you will need if you stay or if you go. Get your supplies ahead of time like water, prescriptions, pet food, non-perishables, batteries, candles, etc.. Once a storm path is forecasted to head this way, everyone runs to the store and it becomes harder to get essential items.

You should similarly have a plan for how you will secure your home and outdoor belongings. Most people don’t realize that you are not just protecting the glass in your windows with shutters but it actually acts as a wind deterrent to keep your roof on your house. If a window breaks, strong winds can act like a vacuum and tear off your roof from the inside out. It is important to make sure you have a plan for all openings on your home to keep this from happening.

With an elderly population, often widows without husbands, are the shutters heavy or difficult to install in the case of an active hurricane?

We offer many types of shutters so we can tailor the options given to the persons’ physical abilities. Shutters are not one size fits all and sometimes we install a combination of different products on a home to best fit the size and location of the openings.

We have basic panels or hurricane fabric that secure to studs placed on the home with wingnuts. The panels are made of aluminum or a clear polycarbonate material so they are not heavy to lift. To make putting up panels easier we can install a track system so a ladder is not needed to get to the top of the opening.

Another popular selection we offer is our accordion shutters which stay mounted on the home year-round and are just pulled together when a hurricane approaches. Rolling shutters are another easy choice, they can either be pulled down by hand or if motorized you can push a button.

Additionally, we offer more aesthetically pleasing options like Impact-Rated Bahama Shutters. We manufacture the Bahamas, Colonials, and Accordions at our warehouse right off US1 on Enterprise Dr.

What has been the most rewarding thing about being a business owner in Flagler County for you?

The most rewarding thing for me is meeting a need in the community and knowing that we are helping with the big picture one home at a time. We love our community and what we do all day every day of the year is helping people prepare and be ready for a disaster.

I also have become a member of many organizations in our community like the Flagler Home Builders Association, the Palm Coast Flagler Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Palm Coast Business Professionals Network. Meeting other business people and forming those connections has been great experience.

If you would like a free estimate you can give us a call at 386-227-6295, email sales@smartguardshutters.com, book an appointment on our website https://smartguardshutters.com/contact/#book, or stop by our office M-F 8-4 and see our showroom at 7 Enterprise Dr., Bunnell, FL 32110.

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