Leading the Way

Leading the Way

BY BARBARA CAPELLA LOEHR

In a world where steadfast leadership is sometimes difficult to find, it's always uplifting to see people, and companies, lead by shining example. Seeing others raise the bar of excellence inspires everyone to strive to do and be better in work and in life.

This is especially true in the kitchen and bath industry, where so many individuals and firms set strong examples of true leadership in so many different ways from the creativity and innovation of their showroom displays to their commitment to educating their customers, staff and the design community at large.

These kitchen and bath professionals possess the traits of true leadership: talent, creativity, business savvy, vision, an open mind, a willingness to listen, strong convictions, personal and professional integrity, and a desire to go above and beyond the ordinary in pursuit of the extraordinary.

Here, Kitchen & Bath Design News, once again honors individuals and companies in the kitchen and bath industry that exemplify true leadership with the presentation of its sixth annual Industry Leadership Awards. A total of 13 industry professionals including kitchen and bath dealers, designers, distributors, "whotailers," sales reps and others have been named as recipients of the 2004 Industry Leadership Awards, presented exclusively by K&BDN.

The awards competition was created in 1999, and is the first and only kitchen and bath industry awards program of its kind, focusing specifically on leadership excellence and outstanding industry achievement.

Kitchen & Bath Design News salutes the winners of its 2004 competition:

Most Innovative Showroom or Use of Displays:

  • First Place: Clarke, the new Milford, MA showroom
  • Second Place: Plumbing Décor by CastleNorth, Tallahassee, FL
  • Third Place (Tie): Porcelain, Rochester, NY
  • Third Place (Tie): Design Centers International (DCI) Home Resource, Charlotte, NC

Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath Dealership:

  • First Place: Corvallis Custom Kitchens & Baths, Corvallis, OR
  • Second Place: Studio City Kitchens, Fair Oaks, CA
  • Third Place: SSW, Inc., dba Studio Snaidero Wisconsin, Madison, WI

Independent or Factory Sales Rep of the Year:

  • First Place: Doug Weatherly, Weatherly Sales and Marketing, Richmond, IN
  • Second Place: Lana Ramsey, Whirlpool Corp., Union Grove, WI
  • Third Place (Tie): Fred Martin, Quality Custom Cabinetry, New Holland, PA
  • Third Place (Tie): Marie Letko, KraftMaid Cabinetry, Inc., Middlefield, OH

Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath Distribution or "Whotail" Firm:

  • First Place: Bailey Industries, Inc., Leesburg, FL
  • Second Place: V-A-H Marketing, Buena Park, CA

Profiles of each winner are presented on this and the following four pages.

Most Innovative Showroom or Use of Displays

First Place: Clarke, the new Milford, MA showroom

Showroom Makes a Dramatic Statement
 

Because of its expansive and ambitious design, Clarke's new showroom has snagged first-place honors in K&BDN's 2004 Industry Leadership Awards in the category of Most Innovative Showroom or Use of Displays.

Clarke is the exclusive New England wholesale distributor for several lines of luxury appliances. Founded in 1991, the firm maintains another showroom in South Norwalk, CT.

According to CEO Tom Clarke, the idea behind this location is the same: "Offer homeowners and the design community a facility in which they can explore and educate themselves about luxury appliances from Sub-Zero, Wolf, Asko, Best, Eurotech and Scotsman, without any pressure to purchase."

Michael Calvallaro, CKD of North Attleboro, MA-based MC Designs Inc., who nominated Clarke's Milford location, agrees.

"Clarke's mission has always been to showcase luxury appliances the way homeowners would want to see them in their homes," he says.

To that end, many of the displays are fully working kitchens. However, what sets the showroom apart is the "Water Appliance Gallery" featuring sinks, faucets and bath ensembles from KWC. In addition, the showroom boasts an amphitheater that seats 150 and acts as the set of celebrity chef Ming Tsai's public TV series, Simply Ming.

With 30 different kitchen and bath sets to explore, Clarke provides customers with maps to follow when they browse the showroom to ensure that they see everything.

Second Place: Plumbing Décor by CastleNorth, Tallahassee, FL

Staying ahead of the curve is the key to Plumbing Décor by CastleNorth's Tallahassee, FL showroom's success. Stunning, constantly changing displays helped to win the showroom second place in the category of Most Innovative Showroom or Use of Displays.

Indeed, "its internally designed display systems result in always fresh displays within an attractive, intelligent layout," says Matt Floeter of Aqua Cops in Oviedo, FL. Floeter nominated the showroom, which carries the Aqua Cops water purification line.
The showroom features displays arranged in a "flexible and inviting Post-Industrial" theme, set in a 4,500-sq.-ft. space, notes Floeter. A second showroom in Tallahassee is due to open this month, with another set to open later this year in Melbourne. Other Plumbing Décor showrooms are located in Orlando, Daytona Beach, Ocala, Gainesville and Altamonte Springs.

Among the offerings of this showroom is a large Kohler-inspired boutique where consumers can select from a large variety of Kohler brand products. The location, like the others, also offers a large selection of other plumbing fixture manufacturers that are sourced worldwide. Its faucet product offering includes Kohler, Moen, Delta, Grohe, Santec, KWC and Opella, among others.

The showroom is rounded out with an open contractor counter system "where CastleNorth blends the best aspects of home center display and selection with the speed and experience of a high intensity wholesale distributor. Contractors have open access to all products inventoried at the branch, and can either select their own items or the CastleNorth associate will pick the orders for them," notes Bob Stern, who runs CastleNorth Corp.

Third Place (Tie): Porcelain, Rochester, NY

Featuring a tactile realization of bath and kitchen products pulled from the pages of glossy design magazines, the 6,600-sq.-ft. Porcelain showroom in Rochester, NY is a completely "customer-driven enterprise."

"What customers see in high-end magazines, they can now see in our showroom, up close and personal," explains Jacqui Zacek, Porcelain's general manager.

It is a "homeowner's, architect's and designer's dream come true," according to owners Robert Seiffert IV and Robert Seiffert V. Ruth Kinslow of KMRA in Rochester, agrees. She nominated Porcelain in the category of Most Innovative Showroom or Use of Displays, in which it took third-place honors.

Opened in September 2003 by Supply 1, Porcelain boasts seven fully functional suites. At the heart of the showroom is a glass-bottomed water feature, with samples of working kitchen faucets around the base, a cascade at the center and working showerheads. There is also a fully functional kitchen used by guest chefs for cooking demonstrations.

The showroom features a vast array of American Standard products and is one of the largest American Standard resources on the East Coast. The showroom features an extensive selection of other brands, as well.

Third Place (Tie): Design Centers International (DCI) Home Resource, Charlotte, NC

Providing clients and designers the ability to experiment with new styles and products before they reach the actual job site is what sets Design Centers International (DCI) Home Resource, Charlotte, NC apart. It was that idea that snagged DCI third place in the category of Most Innovative Showroom or Use of Displays.

"The showroom is invaluable in illustrating to clients how products and appliances fit together in different environments," believes Carol Lindell of DCI.

"Being able to view a variety of products and environments before purchase or construction creates an atmosphere of security, trust and 'no surprises,' " agrees Janice Fallacara of Charlotte, NC-based Hadco, who nominated DCI.

Established with a small showroom in the early 1990s in Matthews, NC, DCI moved to its current location in 2000. It added 50% more floor space for additional appliances, plumbing and bath displays.

It currently boasts 26 vignettes, each one highlighting a variety of countertop, plumbing, lighting and tile options. Lines include Elkay, Kohler, KWC, Whitehaus, Medallion, Miele, La Cornue, Franke, Viking, Marvel, Sub-Zero, Wolf, DuPont Zodiaq, Pyrolave, Top Knobs and Task, among others.
 

Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath Dealership

First Place: Corvallis Custom Kitchens & Baths, Corvallis, OR

Dedication to quality, employees, clients and the community is what drives Corvallis Custom Kitchens & Baths in Corvallis, OR. And that is what captured first-place honors in K&BDN's 2004 Industry Leadership Awards in the category of Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath Dealership.

"Its clients are attracted by the firm's dedication to quality, from design to completion," notes Mel Archer of Pacific Design Inc. in Hillsboro, OR, who nominated the company. His firm has been Corvallis' custom cabinet supplier since Corvallis opened its doors in 1992.

Brian Egan, CKD, CBD, is the owner of Corvallis, and is assisted by a showroom manager and three project managers. The showroom features full kitchen, bath, home office and entertainment center displays, which highlight a product mix that includes stone countertops, DuPont Corian, laminate floors, cabinets, lighting, tile and plumbing fixtures.

Committed to educating clients, Corvallis recently instituted an in-house consumer education series to bring in new customers. It has proven to be an effective marketing device. Other recent endeavors include sponsoring local festivals and hosting a winery.
Giving back to the community is also high on Corvallis' list. Recent Corvallis community service efforts include participation in the Linn-Benton Food Share and coordination of safety grab installations for elderly and physically challenged people.

Second Place: Studio City Kitchens, Fair Oaks, CA

Personalized service, attention to detail and a dedication to clients that goes "above and beyond" have given Studio City Kitchens in Fair Oaks, CA, a competitive edge. They have also enabled owner Cyndi Pritt to grow her one-woman business into a half-million dollar per year endeavor. These traits have garnered Pritt's firm second place in the category of Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath Dealership.

Scott Lippert believes that Pritt's "relentless dedication to her clients" is what has helped grow Studio City Kitchens into what it is today. Lippert, who nominated the firm, is the showroom manager of Sacramento, CA-based McPhails Appliance.

Pritt encourages design input from clients, assists them in choosing a contractor, checks in weekly during the installation phase and delivers products herself, among other things.

Pritt's five-year-old showroom spans 2,000 sq. ft. and features seven kitchen displays and one bath vignette that highlight cabinetry, countertops, flooring, plumbing fixtures, faucetry, tile murals, backsplash tiles, knobs and pulls, bar stools and pendant lighting.

Third Place: SSW, Inc., dba Studio Snaidero Wisconsin, Madison, WI

The goal of Madison, WI-based SSW, Inc., dba Studio Snaidero Wisconsin, is "to elevate the Midwest to a new level of awareness in luxury European kitchen and bath products and design philosophies." So say Todd Huschka and Heather Ahrens of Studio Snaidero, a luxury kitchen and bath showroom that specializes in European living spaces. The showroom opened its doors in 2000, and has been growing strong ever since.

Kevin Henry, director of Tampa, FL-based Küppers-busch USA, one of the showroom's suppliers, believes in this vision. He nominated the firm in the category of Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath Dealership, in which it took third place.

"We definitely design from an emotional perspective. The designers out of Europe are so artistic and passionate, and we celebrate that here," say Huschka and Ahrens.

"One of our greatest strengths is the package we can offer," they report. "This combination of luxury European products cannot be seen anywhere else in one single showroom."

The product mix includes Snaidero, Küppersbusch, KWC, Dornbracht, Duravit, Miele, Neo-Metro, Villeroy & Boch and Valli & Valli, among others.

Independent or Factory Sales Rep of the Year

Consistent Support Wins

In fact, because of his supportive, patient demeanor, the entire staff of Builders FirstSource nominated Weatherly for K&BDN's 2004 Industry Leadership Awards in the category of Independent or Factory Sales Rep of the Year, in which he won first place.
"He offers, plans, pays for and, often times, teaches training classes for the products he sells, and also for other programs that provide tools for sales," reports Brausch. "He is in every week to talk to everyone, review updates and answer questions."

Weatherly goes out of his way to respond, giving out his home and cell numbers; he delivers, repairs and replaces products to help speed a project along; and provides updates on the products he sells via a newsletter.

"Weatherly is always working to increase his customers' sales, to the extent of being there for sales presentations, job site reviews, services and anything else requested," concludes Brausch.

Second Place: Lana Ramsey, Whirlpool Corp., Union Grove, WI

Rep's Responsiveness Earns Respect

"Through Lana's involvement in the Milwaukee building and design community, she is able to provide us with the latest trends and marketplace information. The knowledge she shares allows us to better identify new customers and understand their needs," explains Eileen Ziegler of Plymouth, MN-based Guyer's Builder Supply, a Whirlpool Corp. trade partner.

"Lana is very much a part of our team, and takes it upon herself to assist our reps with anything they need to perform their jobs better," says Ziegler, who nominated Ramsey for the award.

Her passion for her job and compassion for her customers, the building and design community and her local community have also won her the admiration of her customers. In fact, Ziegler points to Ramsey's fundraising efforts for Habitat for Humanity that have yielded more than $10,000 and her service on building association committees that have allowed her to lobby for issues key to the growth of the building industry.

Third Place (Tie):  Fred Martin, Quality Custom Cabinetry, New Holland, PA

Rep Goes Above and Beyond for Customers

Carol Lindell of Design Centers International (DCI) Home Resource, Charlotte, NC has experienced this first-hand, noting in her nomination that Martin works to develop a customer/supplier relationship that goes above and beyond normal expectations.

"Fred has an outstanding sense of personal accountability," says Lindell. "He returns phone calls and promptly, and takes ownership of all issues and questions, rather than deferring them to others. He participates in training and factory tours with new DCI team members, and is well versed in all aspects of cabinetry design, construction and installation."

Lindell further indicates that Martin has managed to become part of the DCI family, "despite the sizeable physical distance between his headquarters and our showroom.

"Fred attended the grand re-opening of our showroom this spring, and while most reps
arrived at 'party-time' to mingle with guests, Fred came hours before-hand to help us prepare," she notes.

Third Place (Tie): Marie Letko, KraftMaid Cabinetry, Inc., Middlefield, OH

Problem-Solving Skills Prove Endearing

"Marie Letko represents excellence in customer service. She backs up her promises and commitments, and goes to great lengths to solve my issues," says Rust. "When the distributor I was working for prepared to shut its doors, Marie had a list of employment options for me, giving me a recommendation that secured the position."

Gudiel offers, "She makes sure I believe in the product so I can sell it. She is in constant contact, making sure I attend all of the training classes and am getting all of the updates on new products."

"Marie actually visits her accounts. She makes sure we have the latest information, specs, etc. She genuinely cares about us and about our clients' needs. We can count on her," adds Larned.

Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath Distribution or "Whotail" Firm

First Place: Bailey Industries, Inc., Leesburg, FL

Sometimes success is all in the right packaging.
In the case of Leesburg, FL-based Bailey Industries, Inc. a distributor of construction industry products and services this idea certainly rings true. The company took top honors in K&BDN's 2004 Industry Leadership Awards in the category of Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath Distribution or "Whotail" Firm.

Founded in 1992, Bailey has taken the idea of packaging success, or, more specifically, bundling services and products, to the next level. "Bailey offers a package of value-added services to the construction industry by bundling services and products that can be adapted or modified to meet any needs," explains Ron Jensen, cabinet division/ sales manager for Daytona Beach, FL-based MASCO Contract Services, a supplier of Merillat cabinets and Euro Solutions storage systems for Bailey. Jensen nominated Bailey, which is run by Eli Bailey, CEO and owner, and Jon Reddell, president.

"Bailey offers the ability to combine products such as cabinets, laminate countertops, granite countertops, cultured marble products, window treatment, electrical wiring, stem work and flooring to fill any needs," states Jensen.

The company can also provide either only product or a complete package that includes design, installation and after-market service, Jensen adds.

Bailey operates five kitchen and bath showrooms that provide complete design and installation services geared to consumers, contractors and builders. An additional four to six showrooms are planned. Bailey employs 272 employees in the Leesburg headquarters, and operates a total of seven company-owned branches.

Bailey's primary products include cabinets, countertops, appliances, flooring and window treatments. The firm boasts strong partnerships with both Merillat and GE Appliances.

As a result, overall sales for Bailey have doubled during the period from 2002 to 2004.

Second Place: V-A-H Marketing, Buena Park, CA

V-A-H Marketing prides itself on its strong commitment to providing a high level of service for its dealers and gaining market share for its suppliers. These have not only led to the on-going growth and success of the Buena Park, CA-based firm, they have also captured it second-place honors in the category of Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath Distribution or "Whotail" Firm.

"The V-A-H Marketing mission statement reads, 'We always strive to achieve a level of service so outstanding that our customer will describe it as excellent,'" say Chairman/CEO Richard Bergstrom and President Robert Bergstrom, who run the firm that was founded 57 years ago by their father, William A. Bergstrom.

Blake Woodall of Vent-A-Hood Corp. in Richardson, TX, who nominated V-A-H, agrees: "By operating with high ethics, leading products and [excellent] service, V-A-H Marketing has established strong dealer loyalty, and can trace many of its on-going dealer relationships back to the company's inception in 1947." Vent-A-Hood supplies ventilation products to V-A-H.

In fact, says Woodall, "V-A-H is so passionate about its mission to serve the customer that it does not compete with its dealers. It offers all dealers the same fair price, and earns their allegiance by showing them how to increase their profits with quality products."

Today, V-A-H Marketing is a full-service, wholesale distributor of high-end appliances with warehouses in northern and southern California that service Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Hawaii. The company maintains an 18,000-sq.-ft. building in Buena Park, CA, and a 15,000-sq.-ft. building in Union City, CA. Both locations have fully functional luxury showroom space, office space and warehouse facilities for inventory, service and repairs.

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