Gun safe manufacturer says business is booming

Zanotti Armor manufactures modular gun safes because those are easier to move around. The only tool required for assembly is a hammer.

Jan. 19--WATERLOO -- With gun sales setting record across the U.S., Mark Zanotti says he anticipates a spike in demand for gun safes, which he manufactures in Waterloo, Iowa.

"The main thing about gun safes is it keeps the guns out of the bad guys' hands and keeps guns away from unsuspecting kinds that don't know about guns," said Zanotti, who has owned and operated Zanotti Armor in downtown Waterloo for 26 years.

Zanotti won't disclose his sales figures for the record, but he says business is good -- and not just for the safekeeping of firearms.

"It's also turned into a lot of people's personal security closet," he said. "Let's say you're on vacation for two weeks -- you'd be surprised at what people store in there. In today's world, I don't call it a gun safe. I call it a personal security closet."

Gun safes, which are fireproof vaults that can resemble a large refrigerator and weigh as much as 900 pounds, are used to store a long list of valuables and documents, he said.

"People put silverware in there, jewels, anything they don't want to get ripped off," Zanotti said.

Zanotti Armor manufactures modular gun safes because those are easier to move around, Zanotti said.

"Imagine moving something the size of a refrigerator that weighs 900 pounds into your basement or across hardwood floors vs. one that comes apart in sections and you can put it together," Zanotti said.

The only tool required for assembly, he said, is a hammer.

Zanotti's largest model is 40 inches wide, 30 inches deep and 6 feet tall.

"We're selling more and more of the larger model," he said.

Zanotti's gun safes range, roughly, from $1,380 to $2,700, he said.

Zanotti said he sells safes all over the U.S., to individuals, companies and government agencies.

"In the Midwest and up to the New England area, we do a lot," he said.

A more mobile society wants to secure valuables as it moves, Zanotti said.

"Today's generation of young people is more mobile. They're apt to be here three years and move on. Between military personnel, border patrol, DEA guys and police, in today's business work environment, people are more apt to pick up and move. It makes our product easy to dissemble and take with you."

Zanotti's manufacturing plant in downtown Waterloo, across from the old Rath meatpacking plant, is about 10,000 square feet. He declined to say how many employees his company has, other than to describe it as a "moderate workforce." He didn't go into numbers, in part, he said, because the creation of Zanotti Armor products requires a lot of outside help.

"We do business with local suppliers," he said, citing as an example Iowa Laser Technology in Cedar Falls, which does cutting work for the company.

"If you're doing a quarter-million dollars a year with Iowa Laser, how many people do you employ?" Zanotti said. "I employ a ton of other people in the community. You have to look at the total amount of people who contribute: trucking, paint stores and others. If I take a million (dollars) in, I put a million out. It's a pretty typical local impact."

Business is on a growth trajectory, Zanotti said.

"We've had a year backlog for the last 2 1/2 to three years, but there's also a lot of new shooters out there," he said.

Gun records checks, fueled by a post-Newtown boom of gun sales, hit a new high in 2013, according to the National Rifle Association, which reported more than 21 million applications were run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System last year. That marked nearly an 8 percent increase and the 11th straight year that the number had risen, the NRA said.

"Since all states allow conceal-carry, you have a lot more men and women active in shooting than there has been. That's why there's a shortage of ammunition," Zanotti said.

Hence the increase in his business, he said.

"If you're going to be a responsible gun owner, you also want to have them locked up," he said.

Copyright 2014 - Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa

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