The PC Building Materials showroom in New Albany, Ind., doesn't look much like it did when the new facility first opened 10 years ago. Window and door displays have been moved to the back, lighting fixtures hang near the vanities, and there are vases for sale in the kitchen vignettes. And you won't find a string of Christmas lights for sale in the place.
The showroom, part of the dealer's 96,000-square-foot headquarters facility that also includes a drive-through lumberyard, has evolved into a pro-focused buying destination for contractors and homeowners alike. As customer needs and the company's priorities have changed over the past decade, so have product offerings and corresponding displays, including phasing-out of hardware store–oriented products like bird feeders and patio furniture and adding on of some non-traditional–yet in-demand–categories. By venturing into unfamiliar, niche territories as trends have emerged, PC Building Materials has created an all-in-one facility where builders can send their customers to browse offerings, get design help, and select products.
At quick glance, it's clear that PC Building Materials'facility is not your typical lumber showroom. Along with traditional areas like kitchen vignettes displaying Decor'a and Aristokraft cabinets in real-life settings, categories like lighting, furniture, and carpet have seen the showroom morph into a one-stop shop that caters to pros–but is comfortable for their customers, too. "One of my philosophies is ‘If a builder uses it, we want to sell it,'" says owner David Stemler.
The focus wasn't always this cut-and-dried. When the facility first opened, says outside salesman and 10-year PC veteran Brent Cox, the dealer thought it would add more DIY consumers to its pro-focused customer mix by becoming a neighborhood hardware store and selling items like Christmas decorations alongside the millwork and cabinets. But "as we've grown, we keep evolving and finding niches," Cox says. "Our main focus and what we've done best with is the pro side. We've decided to concentrate on what we feel we do best."
In committing to its now 80 percent pro base, the company operates in a state of evolution–as customers' needs and demands change, new categories are evaluated and implemented. Lighting, for example, was added last year in response to builder requests and has since grown into a department of more than six people. Carpet was brought in six months ago, and the paint department was expanded this summer to include Benjamin Moore.
One of the most unique categories is a selection of Stanley furniture, which the dealer added to address some builders'desire to provide fashionable–but movable–entertainment and work centers. One of the few areas remaining that is less pro-driven is accessories. Rather than decorating kitchen vignettes with items from local chain stores, Stemler says, the dealer has begun selling décor items like vases, clocks, and rugs they find at trade shows and other venues, products that browsing homeowners can easily pick up and purchase.
Like product categories, the showroom's layout has been continually tweaked over the years for optimum flow. Most notably, Marvin and Andersen window displays and Therma-Tru door displays that had towered over visitors in the front of the store have been moved to a room in the back where lower ceilings and a quiet atmosphere make it easier to view and select products. Lower-height carpeting displays inside the entrance today, just beyond a Georgian-style façade showcasing specialty and stock products, help maintain an open feel. Throughout the showroom, an efficient layout of interior products in the front and exteriors toward the back allow customers to cross over easily from one section to another.
The continued adjustments and product additions have resulted in a facility where builders feel comfortable sending customers–and homeowners can save time by getting more done in one place. "The customers, they feel more comfortable spending more money with us than what they ever have," says Stemler. "They have confidence in us because we have all these stand-alone departments that look good."