Family Firm Turns Design Tradition Into an Art Form

Family Firm Turns Design Tradition Into an Art Form

By John Filippelli

After all, the firm which is led by company president Paul J. Perry prides itself on continuing the design tradition begun by Perry's father, Art Perry, CKD, who started the firm in 1962.

To that end, Art Perry notes that knowing exactly what clients want especially considering the ever-evolving availability of product is the key to design longevity.

"I have seen a tremendous amount of change over a 40-year span. After all, who would have considered wooden countertops five to 10 years ago? Design [and product] sophistication just keep moving forward month after month," he explains.

It is with this in mind that the staff (which includes Paul Perry's wife, Nancy) approaches each design, Paul Perry notes.

"Our philosophy is to approach each project with the desire to present the best possible solution to a problem and be willing to make changes that a client may desire," he offers. This approach tenables the firm to take on a diverse range of projects, he adds.

"Most of our business focuses on design build renovation of kitchens and baths, with 30 percent of our volume derived from new construction and 10 percent from special projects, such as entertainment centers or corporate board and meeting rooms."

He continues: "We also have a relationship with two interior designers, two architects and three custom builders that generates other projects as well, such as libraries and whole-house installations."

Paul Perry adds that the company's recently established 1,200 sq.-ft. showroom has been a boon to the firm, as well.

"We had established a modest reputation in our initial location, but we decided to expand and relocate. A new and larger location was found which has increased our yearly volume of business four-fold," he says.

He adds: "Now, personal recommendations create [most] of our annual business."

Summarizing, Art Perry says: "I can't think of any changes or magic formula that would alter our way of doing business. The economy still dictates market activity, so you can only give 100% and hope that you continue to get your fair share."

Firm focus

According to Paul Perry, the firm has a very specific client base.

"Our clientele are professional people in the mid- to upper range of income who come referred by someone we have serviced, or who has seen our finished work," he offers.

But, Paul Perry notes, in order for the firm to help these clients, the clients themselves must become an active part of the design process.

"We encourage clients to browse magazines and literature and save photographs [of projects they like and dislike]," he says.

He continues: "Also, through meetings during the design process, we ask that the clients present optional design solutions [that will enhance our drawings] so that we can arrive at the best design proposal for them."

To that end, he notes that all perspectives are hand drawn "because we feel our clients get a more professional set of documents and a truer understanding of their project."

Art Perry adds that this close interaction virtually guarantees a seamless design process with the lowest risk of error.

"Our operation is controllable," he says. "We keep five to eight installation personnel active so we can avert costly errors that may cause disruptions to our schedule."

With such attention to detail, Paul Perry notes that quite often, the firm will require a design retainer for their services.

"The retainers range from $500 to $2,500, depending on the scope of the work and the budget established for the project," he says.

In fact, Perry points to one recent project that he believes proves the benefits of having a close relationship with clients.

"We converted three apartments into three, two-story penthouses, which included a full kitchen, two baths and a powder room," he describes.

He states: "We are not in kitchen sales per se, but we listen to a client's needs, wants and expectations, and create an environment for them to purchase."

A good show

According to Paul Perry, the company's 1,200 square-foot showroom is all about options.

For instance, he notes that it features six full kitchen displays, two bath displays and an entertainment center to help clients in their selection process.

The showroom also offers product lines from such manufacturers as Hillcraft Euro Custom Cabinetry, Elm Custom Cabinetry, DACOR, Bosch, Sub-Zero and Viking Range Corp.

"We have attempted to carry a wide variety that gives our clients a choice of styles, finishes and budget options," he stresses.

The showroom which features a transitional design theme also gets a boost from its location, situated in a quaint upscale shopping village, which naturally leads visitors through its doors.

Loud and clear

Although the firm relies heavily on the reputation it has created, it is not about to rest on its laurels, Paul Perry notes.

In fact, the firm has an active marketing campaign that includes participating in a local designer house and taking out ads in church bulletins.

"We also have letters written by clients available expressing their satisfaction with the finished product and, most importantly, the courtesy and performance of our installation department," he concludes.

AA Perry & Sons At a Glance

Location: 2531 Huntingdon Pike, Huntingdon Valley, PA
Principals: Paul J. Perry, president; Nancy Perry, secretary and design consultant; Joan Woltemate, drafting and design support; Art Perry, CKD (semi-retired), consultant
Number of employees: 5
Showroom: One, approx. 1,200 square feet
Hour of Operation: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Mon. through Fri.; Sat. and evenings by appointment
Business philosophy: "Approach each project with the desire to present the best possible solution to a problem and be willing to make changes that a client may desire." Phyllis Diller, Kathy Ireland and Yoko Ono, among other notables.