FRESNO, CA— Much like the Lotto slogan suggests, Earl Bier III and Robert Ladner know that “all it takes is a dollar and a dream.” Or, in the case of Bier and Ladner’s firm, Cabinetry Design Center, based here, it might be more apt to say “$30 and a great idea.”
After all, if kitchen and bath professionals such as Bier and Ladner have enough belief in their talents to take a chance on entrepreneurship with little more than an idea and the money in their pockets, it’s hard to bet against them.
As the legend goes, Bier and Ladner set up their first display at a local appliance store and it consisted of a mere five cabinets (which they had gotten on loan, no less!). Before Cabinetry Design Center was even an official business, Ladner had secured the pair’s first sale – but since the two hadn’t yet gotten a business license, they couldn’t cash the check. So, with each putting $15 in toward the permit, Cabinetry Design Center was born.
“When we first started, most of the design was done in my house and most of the estimating was done at a fast food restaurant, because we didn’t have an office,” says Bier. “But we always operated strictly on what we made before we would go to the next thing. We probably didn’t pay ourselves at that time – but we never had to take out a business loan.”
Indeed, say the co-owners, the faith that they showed in themselves nearly 10 years ago is being repaid today with a debt-free, $1 million business.
The firm caters to all levels of design professionals, as well as homeowners, and focuses on all period styles to meet the specific needs and desires of the client. According to Ladner, the company specializes in high-end, luxury custom cabinetry built to their customers’ specifications. He adds that the typical Cabinet Design Center’s customer is a professional or business executive, ranging from 40 to 75 years old, with a $150,000 income.
Bier adds: “Our clientele is the middle to luxury class, fashion conscious and discriminating buyer with an upward lifestyle.”
At Cabinetry Design Center, Bier serves as lead designer while Ladner procures sales – natural roles for both, Ladner claims.
“Earl designed his first major project when he was only 12 years old, and later earned an award of excellence for a design competition at the San Joaquin Chapter of AIA,” Ladner reports. “He also has an AS Degree in Architecture.” He continues: “I grew up on a family farm in South Dakota where my family built their own custom home. That experience really set the standard for me, and I have been involved in the building business ever since.”
As Ladner notes, the company has even grown to become one of the country’s top dealers of Crystal Cabinetry.
“In terms of volume, we are in the top one percent of all Crystal dealers,” he boasts.
In addition to Crystal Cabinets, the pair also carries a variety of other high-end product lines, including UltraCraft, Hertco, Just Sinks, Chicago Faucets, American Bath and Classic Brass, among others.
He adds that the partners receive their greatest joy from bringing clients’ wishes to life.
“Most of our clients have an idea taken from a picture they’ve seen. Whether it’s that, or a variation of it they have in mind, we can do it. We can build their dream,” he concludes.
According to Ladner, the key to the firm’s success is a company-wide focus on design details.
“We pay attention to detail and are always available by cell phone to answer questions and concerns,” he says. “We as business owners feel it is very important to stay active in all aspects of our business, and support our design team with the best training and involvement possible.”
To that end, he notes that the firm has access to a team of five designers, all of whom have ample design experience, which enables the firm to capture any design theme requested by a client.
“Our success is that we utilize the strengths of each person involved,” says Ladner.
“We give clients what they want,” adds Bier. “We take time to give them the exact details of what they are thinking design-wise. All of our customers receive personalized attention.”
He continues: “[It’s been my experience that] at a lot of other places, what you see is what you get. We go a lot further and get into more detail. We want to know what they want to do in a certain space.”
Another key to the firm’s approach is the use of 20-20 design software, says company designer Amanda Van Nortwick. “With this software, we can make 3-D models so clients can see pretty much exactly what their kitchen is going to look like,” she says.
Indeed, the pair point out that not only are the clients consulted on every possible detail of their remodel, but they are also free to add or remove as much as they’d like. “[Our motivation comes from the knowledge] that we are creating a place where [our clients’] families will gather for the holidays and special occasions,” Ladner concludes.
The firm takes pride in keeping its projects on schedule, says Ladner.
He explains: “Once the design phase is completed and the customer is 100 percent satisfied with the look and feel of the new kitchen, the actual building begins. Our company oversees every aspect of construction, including subcontractors.”
He continues: “Depending on the size of the build, installation time varies from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.”
In fact, the pair point to a kitchen remodel project done four years ago as an example of the firm’s philosophy in action.
“The client was so pleased with her experience that she’s hired us to build all of the cabinetry in her new home,” says Ladner.
The company utilizes a unique approach for capturing a diverse cross-section of its area clientele. Specifically, the pair runs its business from its main, 1,300-sq.-ft. showroom in Fresno, but it also has its work featured prominently in two associate studios – CA Design Consultants in Fresno and Gary Olson Design in Bakersfield. To that end, the firm displays at various appliance stores throughout California’s central valley.
“Our showroom displays an upper level of design and detail,” Ladner offers.
He concludes that the firm also hosts design workshops at the working kitchens found in some of its associate showrooms – an added approach that helps drive word-of-mouth business.
In fact, the firm relies heavily on referral business. To do this, the pair take advantage of the advantageous location.
“Fresno is the fifth largest market in California, and has the largest home show event in California. We’re a major presence at the home show and we display an idea center there,” Ladner offers.
Bier concludes: “Our clients are happy that they can get this kind of quality [from us]. They don’t have to go to the Bay area or southern California to get what they want.”