Lori Jo Krengel says that the floodgates seemed to open in October 2009. Since then, business in St. Paul, Minn., has been strong. “It was almost as if we had our phone unplugged and then plugged back in,” says the president of Kitchens by Krengel.

Through most of 2009 e-mail, phone calls, and walk-in traffic at the company’s showroom were significantly down. Customers did not respond, even when the company purchased ads in shelter magazines, mailed brochures to past clients, and increased Internet exposure.

Real estate agents and bankers have told Krengel that the paralysis seemed due to fear of what the unstable economy would bring. But now, Krengel says, her savvy clients are realizing that the economy is getting stronger, and they want to take advantage of the current labor pricing and vendor promotions. Clients who recently sold a house on the East Coast told Krengel that it sold quickly because it had been updated.

To adjust to the strengthening market, Krengel recently hired a carpenter, and she plans to hire an office support person as well. “Our staff is almost back to pre-recession levels,” she says.

—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.