"In years past. we really stayed busy just basically taking care of contractors doing new homes with the specialty items," says Terry Dunlap, owner of Dunlap Building Specialties in Newburgh, Ind. "Now we're trying to stay busy convincing people that they don't have to go to Lowe's or Menards or The Home Depot to get a good value."
To that end, Dunlap is making plans to reconfigure his store's 2,500 square feet of display space by adding roughly 400 more square feet of showroom and adding three new displays: a fully functioning kitchen, a laundry room, and a bathroom. The displays will feature working appliances, interior and exterior doors, mouldings, cabinets, windows, and skylights.
Dunlap says he's working toward a display environment that eschews 10-foot vignettes in favor of more fully sized, working models of rooms. That's because it can be hard for some customers to envision an entire room when all they can see is a non-working vignette, he says.
"The main thing is trying to put them into a real-life kind of environment," says Dunlap, whose store is located in southern Indiana practically a stone's throw from the Ohio River. "If someone wants to see something, such as a DCS pro range, and see how the burner actually works, I can go and show them the stove. I can show them how fast it will blow a pot of water or sear a piece of meat."
Dunlap says he began thinking about creating a laundry room display when he started taking customers to his home to view his kitchen and found many people stopping to look at his new frontloading washer and dryer and counter and shelf system.
Dunlap says he's picky when deciding what to add to the new displays. “We try not to carry lines that the big box stores are going to carry…but we try to carve out a niche with good, quality products" he declares. "We also try to pick lines that have unique features."
Dunlap Building Specialties sells a variety of interior woodwork, including cabinets, doors, and moulding. It also sells appliances and competes with the local big box stores in doing so by selling brands such as Whirlpool and Kitchenaid. It doesn't sell lumber or hardware.
Dunlap says about 70% of his clientele is remodelers, and many of the rest are homeowners referred to Dunlap Building Specialties by contractors.
He says he hopes to have the displays completed by early May, but that depends on financing.
Dunlap opened the business in 1994 and put in the most recent showroom in 2007. "I think the new showroom has been a scuccess,"he says. "When we built the new building and the showroom, it was like everybody that does a venture like this: they underestimate the cost. That's why we're still, three years later, evolving. There are things that didn't get done quite the way I wanted to do them."