First place: Morris Black & Sons, Lehigh Valley, PA

First place: Morris Black & Sons, Lehigh Valley, PA

Firm Serves Multiple Markets With One Level of Excellence

The company is divided into three separate divisions which operate as individual profit centers within the corporate structure: Commercial Doors and Hardware, Fiberglass Insulation Contracting and Kitchens and Baths Division. The firm serves as a distributor for stock cabinets, offering a one-stop builder purchase point for stock cabinets; a commercial/contract business, serving light industrial casework needs with its own in house manufacturing facility, and a high-end custom kitchen remodeling business, with a focused "design studio" image.

In fact, the firm's ability to succeed as a multi-faceted business  without sacrificing quality earned it top honors in Category One of K&BDN's 2001 Industry Leadership Awards competition.

The 93-year-old Lehigh Valley, PA-based firm is a family affair, currently managed by the third and fourth generation of the Black family. Serving the residential and commercial construction trades, while simultaneously building its reputation as one of the most respected high-end kitchen and bath remodeling companies in the area, the company operates out of three locations its headquarters in Lehigh Valley, and two satellite showrooms in Bartonsville, PA (the Poconos) and Bryn Mawr, PA (Main Line Philadelphia). 

While some firms have struggled with secondary showrooms, becoming overextended in their attempts to grow, Morris Black was able to successfully expand into the two satellite operations largely because it was able to build on its strengths without relying on cookie cutter showrooms. Instead, each showroom is carefully tailored to fit the unique style demands of its respective clientele.

Recognizing and respecting differences while maintaining the firm's overall success strategy has worked well internally, as well. Within the company, each division has distinctive and separate responsibilities, yet each benefits from the other's experience. For instance, within the builder market, the two sales organizations, although separated in their business focus, are supervised by one kitchen department manager. This allows the retail group to interact with the builder customer service staff and designers, with each learning from the others.

At the heart of Morris Black is the high-end kitchen design studio, which utilizes a showroom within a showroom concept, keeping it completely separate from the stock/builder spaces. Entering this area, everything from the carpet to the floor to the design approach to the clientele changes in fact, the firm even developed a separate image and logo for the high-end business. 

Collaborative design carry out the service mission, with teams made up of a senior designer and a design associate. The idea that "two designers are better than one" works well here, with each designer bouncing ideas off the other giving customers an added sense of personalized attention that high-end customers expect. The design team is backed up by a strong support staff to ensure "turnkey" full service attention.

This team approach allows the large, multi-faceted business to maintain the kind of small, personalized and focused "studio" approach to residential kitchen design that high-end consumers desire.

The Morris Black Design Studios eschews traditional advertising in favor of a "community development" marketing campaign that focuses on strong partnerships with interior designers, architects and key specifiers within the upscale community. Not only have interior designers partnered on accessorizing the displays, but ASID and designer events are regularly held in the showroom, the firm notes.