When the housing market turned upside down several years ago, the day arrived for the team at Custom Design & Construction, El Segundo, Calif.—as it did for most remodelers—to develop a strategy for continuing the company’s growth. Meetings were held, adjustments were made, opportunities fell into place and ultimately CD&C was relaunched in September 2011 in a street-level, showroom-style design center that attracts potential clients, keeps them excited and engaged with their creativity.
For this 26-year-old, full-service design/build remodeling firm, which handles everything from the first idea to the final handshake, including financing if a client needs it, its new business model mirrors observations of market shifts and client behaviors. Clients no longer asked for teardowns and rebuilds or whole-home remodels. Rather, they asked for a bathroom remodel or bedroom remodel, looking for the biggest bang for their buck.
Today, the biggest bang within an existing home tends to be in kitchens and bathrooms, which is why 60 percent of the design center’s vignettes are devoted to these two spaces. Bill Simone, president, says the design center has two purposes:
- Get the client’s creative juices flowing.
- Demonstrate CD&C’s quality and what’s possible.
“Clients might not like exactly what they see in the design center, but what they see gets the creative side of their wants and needs to come out, and projects evolve from there,” he says.
CD&C breaks down its business, and the design center vignettes, into three levels of projects, Simone explains. “Level one is the ‘pull and replace’ kitchen remodel, maybe to improve a little bit on the work triangle, for example. This is the baseline project typically in the $40,000 to $55,000 range. The second level would involve significant improvements in the layout of a kitchen and going with some more upscale finishes, using more creativity in the design, which would be in the mid-$50,000 to mid-$70,000 range. The next rung higher would be more involved, including taking out or building walls, or opening a kitchen to a great room, amounting to an upscale project starting in the mid-$80,000 range and up from there,” he says.
Choosing the Location
Any business based even partially on foot traffic must choose its location wisely. “We looked at a number of buildings, including one around the corner. This space, however, is connected to a building owned by one of my business partners, so when it became available it was a natural fit,” Simone says.
Prior to moving into the design center, CD&C’s office had limited public access in a high-rise office building with no signage, says Randy Ricciotti, vice president. “This new space provides us access to the public, and gives passersby the ability to simply walk in. In the old space, no one knew we were there unless they were looking specifically for us,” he adds.
In addition to street-level windows, another benefit is being so close to El Segundo’s many major corporations. The business plan calls for catering to all levels of local employees, not just the top-tier executives and management.
To attract foot traffic, CD&C spoke with the owner of several food trucks that park nearby and created a win-win agreement in which trucks use its front entry parking area, Simone explains. This keeps the trucks off the street and the police happy. “The street we’re on [Mariposa Ave.] is the main thoroughfare. Employees walk past on their lunch hours every day. The food trucks park next to us, people line up, order food, then come into the design center.”
The choice of location has worked as planned: CD&C is doing work for employees of Boeing, Mattel and other large corporations in the area, Ricciotti says. A shift is being observed, too, from small projects toward large additions and whole-house remodels.