Going to Great Lengths to Fulfill Clients' Dreams

New Orleans is well known for its food…gumbo, jambalaya, Po-Boys, etouffee and of course, the city’s famous beignets.

“We’re in a great place with many great restaurants and chefs, which gives us the ability to eat great food,” says Randall Shaw. As owner of Nordic Kitchens and Baths based in neighboring Metairie, Shaw – along with his team – enjoys creating kitchens where clients can replicate much of the great food they enjoy while dining in the city.

As its name implies, Nordic Kitchens and Baths has a rich European heritage, originally founded by Shaw’s father, a master cabinetmaker from Norway. Established as Nordic Cabinets in 1986, the company was one of the first manufacturers of European cabinets in the New Orleans area.

Today, the company – which is nearing its 20th anniversary since rebranding – has grown beyond strictly cabinetry to offer full kitchen and bath design services with luxury cabinets, appliances, lighting, plumbing fixtures, etc. to create dream kitchens.

Notably, Nordic is the only kitchen/bath dealer in the New Orleans area to offer all of the high-end appliance brands. “Typically appliances in this area are sold by kitchen and bath dealers rather than appliance stores,” he says. “We are the only one who offers all of the high-end brands, which gives us a unique advantage. We’ve grown the appliance business tremendously over the years, and we’re still growing it, expanding into outdoor kitchen appliances and design where we are carving out a niche as well.”

 

Fulfilling Dreams

Another aspect that Shaw feels sets firm apart is the ability to fully accommodate client requests, utilizing everyone from local fabricators and machine shops to manufacturers of specialty products to help fulfill dreams. “We aren’t an out-of-the-box type of company,” he says. “If a cabinet company doesn’t offer something a client is looking for, we will source it.”

Such was the case with a recent customer who had fallen in love with some furniture pieces, accented with chrome legs, while in Italy. “They wanted to use this look in their bathroom,” he explains. “I had a machine shop replicate the legs, then dipped them in chrome. We’ll often do these types of requests that other people might be afraid to do.”

Shaw recalls another project where they used laminated art glass as a backsplash, which was then backlit. “We’ll do as much or as little as the customer requests,” he continues. “If someone walks in and just wants an ice maker or a dishwasher, we can do that. But if someone wants us to redesign their kitchen and have it installed, we can do that, too.”

 

Cater to Clients

As Shaw continues to grow the business and looks to the future, staying true to the company’s past is important. “This business started with just the two of us,” he says, offering a nod to his father while stressing the importance of remaining humble. “I don’t want to forget where we came from and how we started.”

This philosophy helps him and his designers stay focused on how to best serve clients. “It is and always has been about taking care of our clients,” he says, adding that customer service isn’t dependent upon the scope or investment associated with a particular project. “They’re all created equally, and we treat them that way. It’s important to not lose sight of that…to stay grounded.”

Client interaction is closely maintained throughout the entire process, from the time someone walks in the door through completion of a project. “We greet everyone immediately when they walk into the showroom,” he says, “but we don’t ‘harp’ over them. Our designers and appliance specialists interact in a down-to-earth, friendly manner, while being attentive to every detail that person might have.”

While Nordic does not do general contracting, that doesn’t mean Shaw hands off clients after the creative design work is done. “We don’t walk away from the project,” he says. “We stay involved to the very end.”

As a finishing touch, Shaw creates a custom binder for each client, complete with manuals, use/care instructions, serial numbers, etc. for all of the products included in the job. “Once a project is finished, we’ll greet the client at their home,” he says. “We’ll walk through every appliance and cabinet, discussing the features of each one and how to best maintain it. It’s a unique touch and a great resource for our clients. Clients can keep the binder in their kitchen and everything is in one convenient place, making it simple to access.”

 

Something for Everyone

Shaw also caters to his clients with a new showroom into which he moved about two and a half years ago. The 6,000-square-foot space – which is about 10 miles down the street from the original location and closer to his core clientele – includes 14 full-size kitchens. All appliances within the displays are, at the very least, hooked up in ‘demo’ mode, with some displays being fully live to accommodate demonstrations and cooking classes. “If someone opens a refrigerator, they won’t see a dark interior,” he says. “If someone opens an oven, the light comes on and the touch controls work.”

European influences of the company’s heritage are evident to visitors of the showroom, which features an array of contemporary/modern displays. Contemporary design has grown tremendously and now accounts for about 50 percent of his business, up from about 3 percent just 10 years ago. But given New Orleans’ propensity toward traditional design, Shaw is cognizant about maintaining displays that offer something for everyone, adding traditional and transitional designs to the showroom mix as well. “I show more contemporary styles than my competition, in part because I have a larger showroom that gives me that luxury,” he says. “But we don’t want to be labeled as only offering one particular style.”

Even though the showroom is less than three years old, Shaw has already made changes, in part to accommodate appliance manufacturers’ recent introductions and to remove products that just weren’t moving. “We pride ourselves in keeping our displays up to date,” he says. “I’ve already changed one entirely, placed an order for a second and am designing changes to a third.”

He also tweaks displays, adding new products he thinks will resonate with clients. One such product is a smartphone-controlled coffee faucet where all the working components are concealed underneath the countertop and behind closed doors. He also just added an indoor garden cultivator unit that gives homeowners the ability to grow fresh greens in the space about the size of a wine refrigerator. “For foodie’s who like to cook at home, it doesn’t get any fresher,” he says.

“We have a great showroom, with great product,” he continues. “But much of our success is really about the employees…the designers, the appliance specialists and our warehouse employees. Everyone is driven toward providing great customer service for taking care of our clients. That’s always the concern as we continue to grow. We never want to lose our hand-hold on customer service. That’s what makes us.”

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