FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - Bill Feinberg is on the phone, sitting in a trailer that serves as his temporary office, watching a giant yellow crane tear apart his former headquarters. When the old one is gone, a new, state-of-the-art showroom will take its place. The groundbreaking for the new one already has taken place, back in May.
He’s excited about the future of his business, Allied Kitchen and Bath, and especially excited about the new showroom, a 15,000-sq.-ft. facility that will cater to contractors and designers as well as homeowners. Being able to serve a larger clientele is just one way his long-term business dreams are coming together.
Yet Feinberg sees his business as far more than just a place to sell kitchens and baths. His firm has become a launching pad for charitable work, an accidental journey that began with the death of his father from leukemia.
A Father’s Inspiration
Four years ago, Feinberg’s father, Nathan, suddenly became ill. Nathan Feinberg, who had served in various capacities in the family business. passed away six weeks later, at 71, from an acute form of leukemia.
“It was a big loss for us,” Feinberg says of a man he idolized and learned business from.
Feinberg felt a need to do something about it. He contacted the Southern Florida chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a national organization that seeks to fund research into the cures for the deadly disease. With the help of society members, Feinberg organized the first Decorate, Dine & Donate Auction at a local builder’s appliance showroom. Numerous local business owners, including some of Feinberg’s competitors, came out to support the cause.
Feinberg had hoped to raise $10,000. To his surprise, local businesses and the community rallied to raise 10 times that amount over the next three months. In the process, an annual charitable event was born. This past year’s event, set at the Marriott Harbor Beach in Fort Lauderdale, drew 500 people and raised about $250,000. A kitchen that had been donated by local showrooms was valued at $30,000.
After watching the success of his efforts, Feinberg, whose firm has also supported Habitat for Humanity for years, wanted to get involved in other charitable work. Indeed, this desire to give back has become a cornerstone of his business and an integral part of the firm’s identity. In fact, helping others has become an essential part of his work, a “paying it forward” philosophy that has transformed Feinberg’s world – as well as his business.
“I had never done anything like this,” says Feinberg of the charity auction he helped to create for the local Leukemia society.
“I was so close to my dad. He was my best friend, and it was only six weeks from the time he got sick to the time he died. It was so difficult to watch him suffer like that.
“I had to do something,” he adds. “[Now] people know that Allied is a giving company. What goes around comes around. I firmly believe that.”
Indeed, making things happen is one of Feinberg’s specialties.
Feinberg moved to Fort Lauderdale from Philadelphia in 1984, buying two small duplexes that would serves as his office and showroom. His brother, Joe, joined him as partner, and they would buy a third duplex as the business grew. With it, the men were joined by their two other brothers, who moved south to join them in the venture.
Feinberg’s parents joined the firm as well. The business grew, with Allied doing $3 million in business in its first year.
Managing change became a hallmark of Allied. At first, Feinberg’s firm was doing a lot of home remodeling, mostly smaller jobs ranging from $5,000 to $15,000. But the company realized it needed a showroom if it was going to expand its market.
So, one of the duplexes was converted to a showroom in 1985.
There were down years in the late 1980s, but ever since Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, the firm has seen steady growth, and it now has 38 employees.
“We are constantly perfecting what we do,” Feinberg says of his business philosophy. “We are service oriented, striving for excellence and always trying to get better. You have to give people more than they bargain for. We never leave a job unless people are happy.”
Recently named “Small Business Person of the Year” by the Broward Council of Chambers, Feinberg stresses the need for a commitment from employees to serve clients as well as the community.
Repeat business is a primary factor in the firm’s success, and the modest jobs of two decades ago have grown into projects in the $40,000-$60,000 range.
The company’s service area is 100 miles long, stretching through the southern Florida counties of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. Indeed, the growing and dynamic market of southern Florida influences the kinds of jobs Allied does, according to Feinberg. Away from the beach communities, the company does a lot of renovations on homes built in the 1970s and ’80s.
In fact, Allied has a long tradition of being willing to remodel anything. “We’re not just kitchens. We do everything,” he notes.
Being able to handle a multitude of jobs, while offering one-stop shopping for customers at the showroom, has helped the firm stay strong even in down times, Feinberg believes.
He also believes his local market will go through a boom period in the next five years and that, in part, is why Feinberg expects the new showroom will take Allied to an entirely new level. “Hopefully, the new building will take on a whole new clientele including custom builders, decorators and architects. That way they could use our showroom as their own showroom.”
Allied’s current showroom, across the street from the building under construction, still offers a full range of products, from hardware and cabinetry to faucets, countertops and more. Major product lines include cabinetry by Omega, Dynasty, Ultracraft, Beckermann and Vanico Maronyx. A wide array of appliance lines is also featured. For the bath, the showroom carries Ronbow, Vanity Flair, Priele, Barclay and a complete line of plumbing fixtures and tile.
The firm relies on referrals for a great deal of its business, but does advertise through local newspapers, telephone directories, job-site signs and its Web site. The firm hosts open houses for other trades, and is planning a showroom event for the local chamber of commerce monthly business-card exchange. The events serve to introduce the firm to a potential wider marketing audience, Feinberg notes.
But Feinberg also works for something more personal. He says, “My brothers and I know that we can look up and know my Dad is smiling at us. Through our work, his name lives on.”