In addition to makers of handcuffs, there's at least one other enterprise that's benefiting from the S&L scandal: Facility Options Group (FOG). The Minneapolis company started up four years ago as an office-relocation service, but its briskest sales now come from hard goods: namely, the refurbished modular partitions it had earlier offered merely to accommodate the needs of certain customers.
The company purchases used walls and workstations at bargain prices from distressed thrifts across the land and ships them home, where the panels are then reupholstered and resold. Owner Dorothy Erwin got into the used-partition business (rather than the used-furniture business) when she realized she could stack far more walls than desks onto a flatbed truck -- and that the supply would probably be plentiful for decades to come. The use of rejuvenated walls can save a belt-tightening business anywhere from 20% to 50%, Erwin says. Where the average seven-by-eight-foot, seven-panel workstation would cost about $5,000 new, refurbished structures of the same quality go for around $3,000 at FOG.
-- Robert A. Mamis