TAMPA — Walker Peek sat in his living room two summers ago, drinking a beer and watching an NBA semifinal game with friends.
His then-fiancee, Liz, was upstairs studying for a medical school exam. They were being too loud, she told him.
He turned down the volume.
Still too loud, she said.
"She was like, 'I can still hear it,' " Peek said. "I said, 'I can't even hear it!' "
They stuffed towels in the gap under their bedroom door, hoping to block out noise. At one point, he nailed a blanket to the door outside the room.
Nothing worked, so he decided to make something himself.
Fast-forward two years. Peek, 28, is the founder of Residential Acoustics, a Tampa-based company that specializes in soundproof curtains and doors.
The company has 11 employees and operates out of a 3,000-square-foot warehouse on West Cypress Street. Everything is done in-house, from manufacturing to shipping, and Residential Acoustics has customers as far away as Singapore and Norway.
The company is having a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday at which Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will speak about local entrepreneurship. Peek said his father-in-law, former state Sen. Rick Dantzler, helped arrange the mayor's talk.
Since that back-and-forth with his now-wife, Peek has become something of an expert on curtains and sound-blocking techniques. When he realized the product might be marketable, he borrowed $3,000 from a friend to get a patent and create a website.
His first prototype was effective but "very industrial," he said.
Liz put it more bluntly.
"No woman would ever buy this eyesore," she told him.
After trial and error, the company's two most popular products — branded the "AcoustiDoor" and "AcoustiCurtain" — are favored by young professionals living in noisy areas. Peek said the company gets about 100 orders a week.
The soundproof door starts at $129, while the curtain is $109.
The company uses a dense vinyl to block sound, which Peek says makes outside noise almost inaudible. The retractable curtain normally weighs between 10 and 15 pounds, depending on the size of the window. The door is sized to hang over door frames.
He advertises to people dealing with noise from neighbors, traffic and construction. Peek said people are often looking for a solution cheaper than double-pane windows.
The company has seven out of 10 stars on Trustpilot, a website where users review products.
"Just bought the curtains. Seems to be helping decrease the noise going through the doors. Might buy more," reads a review from this month.
A reviewer who lives in New York complained about the curtains freezing in very cold weather.
"As the curtains insulate heat and cold as well, the door during winter gets below freezing, so does the curtain … that then cracks everywhere."
Peek said he's still working to make the product better. His goal is to create a soundproof option that weighs as little as a regular curtain.
Peek, who is originally from Jacksonville, graduated from the University of Florida in 2010 with a degree in structural engineering. He also has a master's degree in industrial engineering from Columbia University.
Meanwhile, Peek sees a market for the product in Tampa and downtown St. Petersburg, especially for those living near construction along Interstate 275.
"Not only is there a solution, but it's right here in town," he said.
Contact Ayana Stewart at [email protected] or (727) 893-8913.