Clyde Scott didn't expect to be so busy or so popular. He started building underground bunkers during the Obama administration for clients who feared the government would take away their property and their guns.
But the election of Donald Trump only increased business by bringing him a new clientele — Californians and New Yorkers afraid of nuclear war.
"We've had liberals coming out of the woodwork to protect themselves," the 38-year-old Texan said. Right after Trump's election, "business went out the roof. I'd say 500 to 700 percent in one month."
The change has not gone unnoticed. Scott has become famous for his bunker manufacturing facility called Rising S Company (named for Jesus Christ, "the rising Son"). He's appeared in major newspapers and on network television.
His multimillion-dollar bunkers equipped with lap pools and gun rooms have become subplots for popular TV shows like Showtime's "Billions."
Tabloids even report he's building a bunker for Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, something Scott won't talk about. "What's really important about having your shelter is the secrecy of it."
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The idea of building bunkers that can survive a nuclear bomb was supposed to be a niche business for Scott, who already made a decent living building storm shelters. Eight years ago, a woman asked him to build a really big storm shelter.
"I'm like, 'What do you mean by really big?'
"She's like, 'I want it 40 feet in length.'"
Scott realized that wasn't a shelter; that was a bunker. He expanded his steel fabrication capabilities to accommodate her. "Before I finished that one, someone else had ordered one. Before I finished that next one, someone else ordered one."
Scott eventually took $3 million from his storm shelter business and poured it into creating the bunker company.
The new venture fit Scott's personality. "I was raised as a prepper," he said. "Nuclear war was always coming."
He remains concerned that war is imminent, that an attack will take down the grid, that stores will soon be cleared of food and supplies, and that people will turn on each other. "We are the longest living government in the history of the world without a complete collapse, the United States," Scott said solemnly. "It's our time."
It's also his time. Rising S has a backlog of work stretching out more than a year. The most popular bunker he sells measures 500 square feet and costs $125,000. It's set 11 feet underground and topped by four feet of dirt and one foot of concrete.
Inside are bedrooms, bathrooms, a kitchen, pantry, along with an air filtration system, solar power, hidden doors, reinforced locks, and water purifiers that connect to an underground tank. Everything is off the grid, and everything is made from stainless steel.
"I've put in more tunnels and underground bunkers than El Chapo," he said.
Scott said his biggest mistake was not expanding quickly early on. "I woke up one day, and I told my wife: 'I really need to buy a new machine — it was for breaking metal — but it's $40,000."
He wasn't sure he should take the risk. His wife asked him about his backlog, and Scott said he had four months' work. "She's like, 'Then why wouldn't you buy it?' I was like, 'I don't know, I'm scared every day that business isn't going to grow.'"
In 2017, revenues topped $9 million, says Scott, and he's negotiating with a celebrity to build a single bunker worth more than $10 million.
The most expensive bunkers Rising S builds often double as elaborate man caves for their wealthy owners.
"I'm working on one right now in California, for example, that you pull into a metal building, you hit a button, and the elevator lets your car down and you drive into your shelter," Scott said. "I've done a shelter for a dentist, and the entire theme for his bunker was to literally go hide from his wife and get drunk."
Rising S recently saw a 65 percent jump in units sold, in large part due to a new market for smaller bunkers in Japan. Scott's also increased the size of his two manufacturing facilities and boosted employment as he takes on more defense work—work he is not at liberty to describe. Scott said he's been offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to franchise the business, but he's turned the money down, preferring to retain complete control. "This is supposed to save someone's life. If it doesn't do its job, the casualty is going to be death."
There's only one thing that Scott believes could ruin business: a peaceful world. But he thinks that's unlikely. "The more politicians talk, the busier I get."
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This is an updated version of a previously published story.