Firm Eases Design Process With ‘Concierge’ Approach

WASHINGTON, DC — When members of the staff at The Kitchen Guild cater to their clients, they take it quite literally.

After all, consider that the firm not only provides any given client a “temporary kitchen” (including a butcher block cart, small cooktop, refrigerator, microwave and toaster) at the start of a remodeling project, but also throws a catered party for the client once the project is completed.

Based on this and additional services, company president Jim McCoy and v.p. Lisa McCoy note that while the term “from concept to completion” sounds like lip service to some, it is actually the basis for their entire business.

“We go to great lengths to make the remodeling process as easy and enjoyable as possible,” he explains.

Taking the philosophy even further, the firm also offers a semi-custom bath remodeling service (BathExpress), a countertop business (Fairfax Countertop Co.) and a handyman division called Fairfax Handyman Service. All are geared for specific facets of the remodeling process. The company offers: “We manage all aspects of the project. We order, track, receive and deliver all job materials. We arrange all permits, inspections, plumbing and electrical activities, and our designers inspect projects and communicate with clients to make sure the work always meets their satisfaction.”

To Jim McCoy, however, none of this would be possible were it not for the structure of The Kitchen Guild’s 38-person staff, which maintains a “concierge approach” designed to accommodate virtually any client need.

“This team approach helps to provide distinctive kitchens with unmistakable quality to our clients,” he boasts.

Focusing on high-end kitchen and bath design/remodeling projects in existing homes, the firm also specializes in home offices, home theaters and entertainment centers, as well as the installation and remodeling of cabinetry, countertops, appliances, flooring and walls, among others, he comments.

“While many in our field have chosen to subcontract the installation, we have gone in the opposite direction by continually adding the trades to our team,” he continues.

Specifically, the design team at The Kitchen Guild consists of kitchen and bath designers, draftspeople and project managers, while the firm’s remodeling arm includes carpenters, lead carpenters, master plumbers, tile setters, floor installers and electricians.

In fact, it is this approach that has enabled the firm to experience an annualized growth rate of 388% (expanded through internal growth and acquisition) over the past four years, McCoy points out.

“Our growth has really been the result of three factors,” he reports. “One, it has certainly been a rising tide that raises all ships; it has been a great time to design and build kitchens in the Washington, DC area. Second, we have acquired a couple of different companies and rolled them into The Kitchen Guild family. Third, the per showroom growth for our company has been higher than the industry average, due, I believe, to our philosophy toward using in-house installers as opposed to subcontracting.”

He emphasizes: “We do very little builder business. Our clients tend to be busy homeowners who appreciate our approach, and the fact that we handle all details of the project from start to finish.”

Client Catering
For McCoy, the breadth of the company’s success relies on a very simple objective: Make the remodeling process as seamless as possible for all involved.

For instance, the firm aims to allay any space concerns by providing its clients with storage bins prior to the start of a project, primarily so that non-perishable food products and cookware can be stored readily.

Once a project is completed, the firm offers the client a catered party in the new kitchen and even delivers custom-printed aprons as a parting gift.

McCoy explains: “The reality that we are trying to deploy is to get better and do something special like that every month. We will spend up to $35 a person, and we tell clients to get as many people they can to the home – and we will write the check. It takes commitment to do that.” On other occasions, the firm even went about adding air cleaners to each worksite, McCoy adds.

Semi-Sweet Approach
The firm also features a semi-custom remodeling service, as well as a countertop business, to help achieve its aims. BathExpress – the company’s semi-custom bathroom remodeling arm – is particularly unique, McCoy believes, because BathExpress pre-designs bathrooms and uses The Kitchen Guild’s in-house carpenters, plumbers, tile-setters and electricians to install the projects. This significantly cuts costs, he says.

He continues: “Clients can usually select and order their bathroom in 30 minutes or so. We receive materials and can start demo and installation in as little as two or three days.”

McCoy notes that the firm tightly choreographs the in-house tradesmen so as to completely finish the bath within a week.

“Our designers really like BathExpress because it attracts custom bathroom remodeling clients. They also enjoy adding a BathExpress project to a kitchen project,” he adds.

Conversely, McCoy points out that the Fairfax Handyman Service is an offering that leverages downtime that the in-house craftsman might have, to allow them to perform any typical handyman projects that a client needs done. “By offering true ‘one-stop’ shopping to our clients, we are able to maintain competitive pricing, control the quality of the project and manage the client’s experience,” he says. “We are also able to complete projects very quickly, as our lead carpenters only work on one project at a time and are able to efficiently schedule plumbing and electrical tasks through our production manager.”

Support Staff
The variety of skill areas among the firm’s employees helps the company maintain its unique structure, McCoy points out.

“We have a number of CKDs on staff, as well as highly experienced interior designers and draftspeople,” he says, adding that the firm strives to hire strong professionals with good listening and client-management skills.

He also points out that the firm has project managers who assist the in-house designers with research, ordering and tracking.

“This allows our designers more available time for client interaction and project development,” he says.

He continues: “Our company is one of the few kitchen and bath design firms in the Washington DC area that continues to offer in-house designers coupled with a comprehensive, high-end, in-house construction firm.”

McCoy adds that this approach enhances the client’s experience as well, because it gives the client a single “point person” throughout the project, ultimately improving communication and efficiency throughout the design process.

“With this approach, the client doesn’t have to talk to a separate subcontractor and try to get the designer and subcontractor together [about certain issue with the project]. It is a much better experience for [everyone involved].”

Show Business
According to McCoy, the company’s showrooms play an integral role for the company, as well.

He offers: “Across our four showrooms, we have about 5,200 square feet of space, and we also maintain a 2,400-sq.-ft. warehouse. Our showrooms are designed to be functional [from a design standpoint].”

To aid the firm in this pursuit, the showrooms feature a variety of products, including The Kitchen Guild’s custom line of cabinetry, as well as Wood-Mode, Brookhaven, Plain & Fancy, Neff, Royal Sheffield and StarMark Cabinetry – although not all lines are available in every location, he notes. The company also carries Silestone, CaesarStone, Zodiaq, Spekva, and Corian, as well as appliances from Viking Range Corp., Sub-Zero, GE Profile and Dacor.

Likewise, McCoy points out that, quite often, the firm’s designers are also able to provide an “educational tour” of the showrooms for customers, pointing out the differences in quality, style and cabinet configuration, which also eases the customer’s selection process.

Open Market
Another key to the firm’s success, McCoy notes, is being able to spread The Kitchen Guild’s message about its capabilities to potential clients.

“Our marketing program consists of direct mailings, Yellow Pages and magazine and radio advertising, he notes.

To further showcase the firm’s business and design approach, McCoy notes that it has also offered cooking classes and seminars to customers.

But, he concludes: “Word-of-mouth referrals are still the best medium for our firm.”

The Kitchen Guild - At A Glance
Locations: Washington, DC, McLean, VA and Fairfax, VA
Principals: Jim McCoy, president; Lisa McCoy, v.p./COO
Showrooms: four locations, including a 5,200-sq.-ft. showroom dedicated to bath design and remodeling.
Hours of operation: Mon. - Fri., 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Sat., 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Employees: 38
Major Product Lines: Custom, Wood-Mode, Brookhaven, StarMark and Plain & Fancy cabinetry; granite, Silestone, CaeserStone, Zodiaq, Spekva and Corian countertops; Wolf, Viking, DACOR, Thermador, Sub-Zero and GE Profile appliances, and hardwood and tile flooring.
Specialties: Custom kitchen/bath design and remodeling.
Design Software: 20-20, Chief Architect
Business Philosophy: “Creative yet practical kitchen design coupled with Old World craftsmanship.”