Category One:

Category One:

First place: Kitchens by Deane, Stamford, CT.
Design Firm Exceeds Three Generations of Expectations

Meeting the established standards of a business with a long-held reputation for excellence and service while continuing to grow and enhance that reputation has served as an impetus for the company's success.

Focusing on the high-end residential market in Fairfield and Westchester counties, the company has become a fine example of smart design, service and marketing strategies, earning them first place honors in Category One of K&BDN's second annual Industry Leadership Awards.

Working with a staff of 21, including 10 commissioned designers, and two showrooms, the company uses an "open-door policy," incorporating weekly designer meetings and general office meetings, which give all staff members a forum where they can contribute ideas, and benefit from each other's experiences.

A wide variety of products allow designers the ability to design in Contemporary, Traditional or Old World styles. A company-wide focus on offering unique architectural elements and distinguishing finishing techniques adds to the firm's design appeal.

As with any business, publicity is key to bringing in new business. To spread the word, the company uses "consistent, recognizable color endorsement ads in regional magazines," and "has pioneered the use of local cable TV with our own spokesperson, Ingrid Deane Casey," Deane and Cooney report.

Additionally, the firm uses the local newspaper to promote itself, maintains an impressive Web site, arranges kitchen tours, and has been involved with community charities and program to further raise community awareness and gain support.
This strategy has led to a referral base of approximately 85%, according to the company.

But it's when a project has actually begun that Deane and Cooney show why the real reason the business has succeeded for so long.

The company believes in accountability, and supports this by servicing all previous clients, offering restoration work and providing a one-year installation warranty on all jobs.

In addition to the in-house staff, Deane provides installation for all projects with eight sub-contractor crews, ensuring accuracy and top-rate service.

While striving to maintaining the legacy of their family, Deane and Cooney have also shown that the sign of a successful business is one which is willing to change. While the firm was an exclusive St. Charles dealer from 1961-1988, the dealership realized the value of offering a wider selection, and in the late '80s, partnered with Downsview kitchens, Draper DBS and Heritage Custom Kitchens, thereby broadening the firm's design capabilities with regard to architectural elements.

To increase internal efficiency, they have restructured their order entry procedure so that all cabinet orders are reviewed by the project engineer with the commissioned designer to ensure clarity, accuracy and consistency. All cabinet pricing is executed on the computer, they note.

Furthermore, the Web site offers intra network capabilities between two offices, including Internet access for research.

Deane and Cooney also make sure to keep up with industry trends. Their belief that mill shops have become increasingly competitive among architects led them to partner with a local mill shop. This type of innovation has led to direct, positive results for the firm, they report.

Aside from their design team being recognized nationally with numerous sales/design achievement awards, the company has also seen an increase of sales volume at a 10%-15% rate annually. In addition, they report that the company's profit margin continues to increase, and jobs are completed at a more efficient rate.

Both Deane and Cooney work hard to exceed their company's historical mission statement: "The Kitchens by Deane family honors its legacy by providing the highest-quality custom cabinetry, innovative and compelling interior design, superior craftsmanship and outstanding customer service," However, they also differentiate themselves from the competition through a more recently created slogan : "When it's a Kitchens By Deane, it's your kitchen."

Second place: Wood Palace Kitchens, Inc., Middleboro, MA.

Design Firm's Forward-Thinking Mission Breeds Success

With a mission statement which reads, "21 years into the 21st century," it's pretty safe to say that Tim Holick, president of Middleboro, MA-based Wood Palace Kitchens, Inc. has always looked ahead.

His success formula is based on planning ahead, while never neglecting to take care of the basics whether that means showroom cleanliness, customer service or personalized product design development. A major key to his success is knowing his competition, customers and staff, he reports.

With his forward-thinking vision, Holick is attending to customers' needs even before he gets them. First, Holick stays on top of who is obtaining building licenses in the area. By doing this, he knows who to contact for these new building and remodeling construction jobs before they actually begin.

In addition, this allows the company to ensure a personal touch is used in all its business dealings.

To get an early handle on his clients' wish lists, the company uses a strong pre-qualify screening session, Holick notes.

Not only does this allow the company to better understand clients' needs, but it also educates clients by asking detailed, specific questions.

The paperwork used throughout the pre-planning interview process carefully documents plans and expectations on both sides of the table, to pave the way for all planning and requirements throughout each phase of the design process, Holick adds. To ensure customer satisfaction and prevent mistakes, "Once the initial design is complete, it is transferred onto the floor with black crayon so customers can actually stand on the kitchen to make sure it's what they want."

It is this kind of attention to detail, along with the firm's dedication to "unmatched product quality, service dependability and innovative merchandising," that drive the firm's success. 

Third place: Distinctive Kitchens, designs by Steenbeke & Sons, Bedford, NH.
Relocating From Lumberyard to Freestanding Yields Growth

Prior to 1998, Steenbeke & Sons Building Supplies, Inc. a 46-year-old firm serving building contractors in New Hampshire had seven kitchen centers, all located in Steenbeke's lumberyard stores. However, some high-end builders feared that their customers would not want to go to a lumberyard to select their cabinets. Thus, the decision was made to take the kitchen centers out of the lumberyard and open freestanding kitchen and bath design centers a decision that has been the catalyst for enormous growth. 

Currently, three Distinctive Kitchens showrooms have been opened (in Bedford, Laconia and Concord), and three more are in the planning stages, and the results have been nothing short of startling impressive enough, in fact, to win the firm third place honors in Category One of K&BDN's second annual Industry Leadership Awards.
As a result of the changeover, Distinctive Kitchens has been able to attract a high caliber of kitchen design employees, Hebert reports. 

It's no surprise, then, that since the opening of the first Distinctive Kitchens showroom, sales for the kitchen division of Steenbeke's has skyrocketed.

But it's more than just location that has aided Hebert in growing the company. Flexibility, service and a wide product selection are also key to the firm's success. Hebert and his staff of 10 have worked to offer their customers a wide range of cabinets and countertop products that can go from basic builder grade to full custom lines.

Likewise, innovation has played a role in the firm's impressive growth  all Distinctive Kitchen designers are supplied with high speed PCs and the latest Version 6.0 of 20/20 design programs, according to Hebert. In addition, color printers are used to furnish every customer with color perspectives of their kitchen plans.

Furthermore, Distinctive Kitchen personnel are trained to design kitchens for customers by budget which the customer defines. The showrooms are meticulously maintained, which adds to the level of excellence.

The results speak for themselves: The Bedford, NH showroom, the smallest of all the showrooms, has surpassed the sales performance of the entire Steenbeke & Sons kitchen division for the 1997 sales year, and current overall sales for Distinctive Kitchens' second quarter will surpass the half year sales of any previous year, Hebert reports.