Adaptation and innovation are two words that help tell the Challenger Designs story. Two others: surviving and thriving.

Challenger Designs started in 2008 – Year One of a recession, no less – as an offshoot of Challenger Door, which provides doors for the transportation industry. Then came the pivotal moment when a member of Challenger’s research and development team built an aluminum grill cart for a ceramic grill.

The company had found a new direction.

“Once we started to sell those grill carts, then we got into the custom aspect of it,” said Jason Beer, Challenger product engineer. “That’s where our momentum has always been.”

Since its inception, Challenger Designs has also branched out into cabinetry for garages and outdoor kitchens.

“Our focus has long been on long-lasting aluminum cabinetry,” Beer said. “Our products have definitely been refined over the years. They’re much different than when we started.”

Challenger Designs’ decade-plus history has also included a growth spurt. The company’s original manufacturing facility was 25,000 square feet. Now it’s 100,000.

“We’ve grown our capabilities,” said Mark Schmucker, Challenger sales manager. “Everything we do is fabricated in-house, under one roof.”

“It’s a small enough company that if a customer or dealer has a question, everyone here can get them an answer,” said Rachel Hochstetler, one of Challenger’s sales team members. “If they don’t know, they know who to ask. It’s one big team.”

“Basically, the people in the office are footsteps away from the people who build the product,” Schmucker said.

From the start, Challenger Designs has been based in Nappanee, Ind. The Challenger team wouldn’t have it any other way.

“This is our town,” Beer said. “Everybody’s from here. It’s a great location in terms of being home to people with good work ethics and values.”

“It’s also a central shipping location for much of the U.S.,” Schmucker added. “There’s a lot of benefit in shipping costs.”

Challenger Designs has been successful for many reasons. The fact that it designs and builds durable, versatile products is one. The company has also benefited from a strong dealer network and committed sales representatives.

Another key factor: Always keeping the people who use Challenger Designs products in mind.

“The customer experience has always been a focus for us,” Schmucker said.