"Even before Mobile Lumber, I made mental notes about showrooms," he says. "Consultative selling is one of the things I thought worked."
So he designed the showroom, Coast Design Kitchen & Bath, to focus on education. Displays showcase different door designs, but also dive inside cabinets. One area houses six cabinets that look like they are built into a unit but actually roll out on trays. This helps staff talk about cabinet construction options, such as furniture board (a version of particleboard) vs. plywood.
While the background of each showroom manager is as unique as his or her showroom, it's common for managers to use past experiences to flesh out the feel of the store, balancing the technical building demands of a lumberyard with the design focus of a showroom. Given the weak state of new-home building and the big dollars that can come from sales of products commonly displayed in showrooms, these folks are playing an increasingly important role in the fate of their parent companies.
The Road to the Top Managers' different experiences add unique twists to their showrooms.
Like Casey, Alan Bensen was approached by a lumberyard to manage its showroom. Bensen worked his way through college with basic construction jobs. After he earned his marketing degree, he eventually landed a position in marketing with a design and build construction company. The firm shopped at Jaeger Lumber, and when the dealer heard Bensen was looking to change careers, Bensen was asked to manage the Jaeger Home Concepts showroom in Bernardsville, N.J.
His marketing experience makes him more than a showroom manager. He attracts contractors and architects to the store using face-to-face meetings and targeted ads.
"Magazine ads, radio advertising, I was involved with all of that," he says of his past with the design/build group. "Plus, when someone was interested in working with us, I'd go to the initial visit with the client."
Meanwhile, it seems as if John Monigold, co-owner and vice president of Bolyard Lumber Co. in Rochester Hills, Mich., was born to manage his company's showroom. The oldest of the brothers who run the yard, he acted as a mediator to organize the ideas that formed the showroom.
Working with family has helped his business, he says. In addition to its original showroom, which won a ProSales Excellence Award in 2008, the company added a second showroom, modeled after the first, in July 2009.
"The previous generation is always quick to remind the younger generations of being conservative and managing the business properly," he says. "History repeats itself a lot."
John Miller, owner of Freeborn Lumber Co., also came into the business through a family yard. He worked with a designer on his staff, Cheri Schumann, and salespeople to lay out the showroom. However, fate also played a role.
The dealer first opened a showroom in 2004 at its original yard location in Freeborn, Minn. A fire razed that building in 2007. Thirteen months later, the yard reopened in Albert Lea, Minn., about 14 miles away.
The move allowed Miller and his staff to reconfigure the space. Now, when customers walk into the yard, they go through the showroom first. Additionally, the move brought them closer to their customer base.
"Sixty percent of our business came out of the area we moved to," Miller says. "But it was a hard move. It's hard leaving your community."