Stellar showroom seals deals

In an attempt to gain an edge over market competitors and provide an expansive display for a large portion of their product lines, many distributors of decorative concrete products are opening massive showrooms. Last month, Concrete Products profiled the 5,000-sq.-ft. flatwork exhibit of Musselman & Hall in Kansas City. And early in 2007, Peninsula Building Materials Co. (PBM) officially opened the doors of an 8,500-sq.-ft. natural stone, faux stone veneer, brick and concrete masonry showcase in Mountain View, Calif.

The PBM showroom was designed by the architecture firm Gensler of San Francisco, one of the most recognized design professionals in the industry, and took about 18 months to complete. The decision to construct such a massive display came after the company opened up a small part of the sales area at one of its distribution yards as a showroom. "In 1990, we built a dedicated showroom, and it worked better than simply having a customer look at a pallet of brick or stone," says Marty Morey, PBM vice president. "When you see the product installed, it usually looks better and helps make the decision process easier. And because of the weather, showrooms are an essential part of selling any building product."

The family-owned company purchased an empty office building centrally located between two of its three California locations, Sunnyvale and Redwood, both less than 10 miles from the Mountain View facility. The third and most recently added PBM branch is in San Martin, about 30 miles south of the showroom.

"With this facility, we are really targeting masons, designers, contractors and architects," explains Roxanne Kohlin, showroom manager. "It's a place where these people can get comfortable with the look and feel of the product."

The facility has 25-ft. ceilings and a selection of about 300 varieties of natural stone, brick and thin veneer from all over the world. Offerings include limestone from Jerusalem, Turkey and Portugal, and marble from Turkey and Peru. "We have long-standing relationships and exclusive licenses with quarries, and we can get things that other such businesses can't," Kohlin says. "We can have our stone cut or pulled from the quarry to match an exact color, to help customers think outside the box."

PBM has also set up the showroom for those in the building business to bring their customers. Brands PBM represents include Quikrete, BMI mortar and stucco products, and TXI Riverside cement.

With nearly every foot of the showroom paved, the facility features not only various stone and brick features on the floor and borders, but also a number of fountains, sculptures, even a functional Tuscan clay wood-fired stone pizza oven, barbecue pit, stone bench and a faux rug. "The mix of customers depends on the day," says Kohlin. "If an article appears in a local paper about either our facility or about using stone in building, more people come in. A lot of masons and contractors send customers down to the showroom. Overall, I'd say we get about 60 percent tradespeople and 40 percent homeowners. Sometimes, they come in together. That's what we like to see."

The entire exterior and front entranceway of the building features a courtyard and planter walls, as well as full-scale and weeping walls. A landscaped path leads customers to many of the outdoor features, which have a Tuscan villa look, according to Kohlin. Another section of the outdoor display features a modern-looking home with simple lines and gray and white brick. Twelve large skylights provide a natural feel to the interior showroom and show prospective clients how products would look outdoors. "We've seen a few other showrooms that do floor displays or sample boards mounted on walls, but nothing on this scale," Kohlin says.

Morey's great grandfather Harry Morey Jr. founded PBM more than 80 years ago to serve the then-growing San Francisco area. "We are always procuring new product," Marty Morey explains. "We've gotten about five new products since the showroom opened in October [with the official grand opening in mid-January 2007], but we've only changed out one product in the showroom so far. We hope to increase that to 8-10 products a year, maybe even one per month. We have to keep things current so people don't come in and see the same thing every time."



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