Leading the Way
BY BARBARA CAPELLA LOEHR
In a world where steadfast leadership is sometimes difficult to
find, it’s always uplifting to see people, and companies, lead by
shining example. Seeing others raise the bar of excellence inspires
everyone to strive to do and be better in work and in life.
This is especially true in the kitchen and bath industry, where
so many individuals and firms set strong examples of true
leadership in so many different ways from the creativity and
innovation of their showroom displays to their commitment to
educating their customers, staff and the design community at
These kitchen and bath professionals possess the traits of true
leadership: talent, creativity, business savvy, vision, an open
mind, a willingness to listen, strong convictions, personal and
professional integrity, and a desire to go above and beyond the
ordinary in pursuit of the extraordinary.
Here, Kitchen & Bath Design News, once again honors
individuals and companies in the kitchen and bath industry that
exemplify true leadership with the presentation of its sixth annual
Industry Leadership Awards. A total of 13 industry professionals
including kitchen and bath dealers, designers, distributors,
“whotailers,” sales reps and others have been named as recipients
of the 2004 Industry Leadership Awards, presented exclusively by
The awards competition was created in 1999, and is the first and
only kitchen and bath industry awards program of its kind, focusing
specifically on leadership excellence and outstanding industry
Kitchen & Bath Design News salutes the winners of its 2004
Most Innovative Showroom or Use of Displays:
- First Place: Clarke, the new Milford, MA showroom
- Second Place: Plumbing Décor by CastleNorth, Tallahassee,
- Third Place (Tie): Porcelain, Rochester, NY
- Third Place (Tie): Design Centers International (DCI) Home
Resource, Charlotte, NC
Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath
- First Place: Corvallis Custom Kitchens & Baths, Corvallis,
- Second Place: Studio City Kitchens, Fair Oaks, CA
- Third Place: SSW, Inc., dba Studio Snaidero Wisconsin, Madison,
Independent or Factory Sales Rep of the Year:
- First Place: Doug Weatherly, Weatherly Sales and Marketing,
- Second Place: Lana Ramsey, Whirlpool Corp., Union Grove,
- Third Place (Tie): Fred Martin, Quality Custom Cabinetry, New
- Third Place (Tie): Marie Letko, KraftMaid Cabinetry, Inc.,
Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath Distribution
or “Whotail” Firm:
- First Place: Bailey Industries, Inc., Leesburg, FL
- Second Place: V-A-H Marketing, Buena Park, CA
Profiles of each winner are presented on this and the following
Most Innovative Showroom or Use of Displays
First Place: Clarke, the new Milford, MA
Showroom Makes a Dramatic Statement
Drama is certainly the watchword for the
latest Clarke showroom. Opened in Milford, MA in November 2003, the
18,000-sq.-ft. showroom has garnered tremendous attention with its
theme of fire and water. The showroom combines cooking,
refrigeration and European kitchen and bath products, full-size
kitchen displays, a training amphitheater with TV studio inside and
a two-story waterfall.
Because of its expansive and ambitious design, Clarke’s new
showroom has snagged first-place honors in K&BDN’s 2004
Industry Leadership Awards in the category of Most Innovative
Showroom or Use of Displays.
Clarke is the exclusive New England wholesale distributor for
several lines of luxury appliances. Founded in 1991, the firm
maintains another showroom in South Norwalk, CT.
According to CEO Tom Clarke, the idea behind this location is
the same: “Offer homeowners and the design community a facility in
which they can explore and educate themselves about luxury
appliances from Sub-Zero, Wolf, Asko, Best, Eurotech and Scotsman,
without any pressure to purchase.”
Michael Calvallaro, CKD of North Attleboro, MA-based MC Designs
Inc., who nominated Clarke’s Milford location, agrees.
“Clarke’s mission has always been to showcase luxury appliances
the way homeowners would want to see them in their homes,” he
To that end, many of the displays are fully working kitchens.
However, what sets the showroom apart is the “Water Appliance
Gallery” featuring sinks, faucets and bath ensembles from KWC. In
addition, the showroom boasts an amphitheater that seats 150 and
acts as the set of celebrity chef Ming Tsai’s public TV series,
With 30 different kitchen and bath sets to explore, Clarke
provides customers with maps to follow when they browse the
showroom to ensure that they see everything.
Second Place: Plumbing Décor by
CastleNorth, Tallahassee, FL
Plumbing Fixture Showroom Stays Ahead of Curve
Staying ahead of the curve is the key to Plumbing Décor by
CastleNorth’s Tallahassee, FL showroom’s success. Stunning,
constantly changing displays helped to win the showroom second
place in the category of Most Innovative Showroom or Use of
Indeed, “its internally designed display systems result in
always fresh displays within an attractive, intelligent layout,”
says Matt Floeter of Aqua Cops in Oviedo, FL. Floeter nominated the
showroom, which carries the Aqua Cops water purification
The showroom features displays arranged in a “flexible and inviting
Post-Industrial” theme, set in a 4,500-sq.-ft. space, notes
Floeter. A second showroom in Tallahassee is due to open this
month, with another set to open later this year in Melbourne. Other
Plumbing Décor showrooms are located in Orlando, Daytona
Beach, Ocala, Gainesville and Altamonte Springs.
Among the offerings of this showroom is a large Kohler-inspired
boutique where consumers can select from a large variety of Kohler
brand products. The location, like the others, also offers a large
selection of other plumbing fixture manufacturers that are sourced
worldwide. Its faucet product offering includes Kohler, Moen,
Delta, Grohe, Santec, KWC and Opella, among others.
The showroom is rounded out with an open contractor counter
system “where CastleNorth blends the best aspects of home center
display and selection with the speed and experience of a high
intensity wholesale distributor. Contractors have open access to
all products inventoried at the branch, and can either select their
own items or the CastleNorth associate will pick the orders for
them,” notes Bob Stern, who runs CastleNorth Corp.
Third Place (Tie): Porcelain, Rochester, NY
Customers Drive Upscale Showroom
Featuring a tactile realization of bath and kitchen products
pulled from the pages of glossy design magazines, the 6,600-sq.-ft.
Porcelain showroom in Rochester, NY is a completely
“What customers see in high-end magazines, they can now see in
our showroom, up close and personal,” explains Jacqui Zacek,
Porcelain’s general manager.
It is a “homeowner’s, architect’s and designer’s dream come
true,” according to owners Robert Seiffert IV and Robert Seiffert
V. Ruth Kinslow of KMRA in Rochester, agrees. She nominated
Porcelain in the category of Most Innovative Showroom or Use of
Displays, in which it took third-place honors.
Opened in September 2003 by Supply 1, Porcelain boasts seven
fully functional suites. At the heart of the showroom is a
glass-bottomed water feature, with samples of working kitchen
faucets around the base, a cascade at the center and working
showerheads. There is also a fully functional kitchen used by guest
chefs for cooking demonstrations.
The showroom features a vast array of American Standard products
and is one of the largest American Standard resources on the East
Coast. The showroom features an extensive selection of other
brands, as well.
Third Place (Tie): Design Centers International
(DCI) Home Resource, Charlotte, NC
Showroom Is a ‘Living Laboratory’
Providing clients and designers the ability to experiment with
new styles and products before they reach the actual job site is
what sets Design Centers International (DCI) Home Resource,
Charlotte, NC apart. It was that idea that snagged DCI third place
in the category of Most Innovative Showroom or Use of Displays.
“The showroom is invaluable in illustrating to clients how
products and appliances fit together in different environments,”
believes Carol Lindell of DCI.
“Being able to view a variety of products and environments
before purchase or construction creates an atmosphere of security,
trust and ‘no surprises,’ ” agrees Janice Fallacara of Charlotte,
NC-based Hadco, who nominated DCI.
Established with a small showroom in the early 1990s in
Matthews, NC, DCI moved to its current location in 2000. It added
50% more floor space for additional appliances, plumbing and bath
It currently boasts 26 vignettes, each one highlighting a
variety of countertop, plumbing, lighting and tile options. Lines
include Elkay, Kohler, KWC, Whitehaus, Medallion, Miele, La Cornue,
Franke, Viking, Marvel, Sub-Zero, Wolf, DuPont Zodiaq, Pyrolave,
Top Knobs and Task, among others.
Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath
First Place: Corvallis Custom Kitchens &
Baths, Corvallis, OR
Dedication Paves the Path to Success
Dedication to quality, employees, clients and the community is
what drives Corvallis Custom Kitchens & Baths in Corvallis, OR.
And that is what captured first-place honors in K&BDN’s 2004
Industry Leadership Awards in the category of Overall Excellence in
Operating a Kitchen and Bath Dealership.
“Its clients are attracted by the firm’s dedication to quality,
from design to completion,” notes Mel Archer of Pacific Design Inc.
in Hillsboro, OR, who nominated the company. His firm has been
Corvallis’ custom cabinet supplier since Corvallis opened its doors
Brian Egan, CKD, CBD, is the owner of Corvallis, and is assisted
by a showroom manager and three project managers. The showroom
features full kitchen, bath, home office and entertainment center
displays, which highlight a product mix that includes stone
countertops, DuPont Corian, laminate floors, cabinets, lighting,
tile and plumbing fixtures.
Committed to educating clients, Corvallis recently instituted an
in-house consumer education series to bring in new customers. It
has proven to be an effective marketing device. Other recent
endeavors include sponsoring local festivals and hosting a
Giving back to the community is also high on Corvallis’ list.
Recent Corvallis community service efforts include participation in
the Linn-Benton Food Share and coordination of safety grab
installations for elderly and physically challenged people.
Second Place: Studio City Kitchens, Fair Oaks,
Firm’s Growth Due to Personal Touch
Personalized service, attention to detail and a dedication to
clients that goes “above and beyond” have given Studio City
Kitchens in Fair Oaks, CA, a competitive edge. They have also
enabled owner Cyndi Pritt to grow her one-woman business into a
half-million dollar per year endeavor. These traits have garnered
Pritt’s firm second place in the category of Overall Excellence in
Operating a Kitchen and Bath Dealership.
Scott Lippert believes that Pritt’s “relentless dedication to
her clients” is what has helped grow Studio City Kitchens into what
it is today. Lippert, who nominated the firm, is the showroom
manager of Sacramento, CA-based McPhails Appliance.
Pritt encourages design input from clients, assists them in
choosing a contractor, checks in weekly during the installation
phase and delivers products herself, among other things.
Pritt’s five-year-old showroom spans 2,000 sq. ft. and features
seven kitchen displays and one bath vignette that highlight
cabinetry, countertops, flooring, plumbing fixtures, faucetry, tile
murals, backsplash tiles, knobs and pulls, bar stools and pendant
Third Place: SSW, Inc., dba Studio Snaidero
Wisconsin, Madison, WI
European Flair Marks Showroom
The goal of Madison, WI-based SSW, Inc., dba Studio Snaidero
Wisconsin, is “to elevate the Midwest to a new level of awareness
in luxury European kitchen and bath products and design
philosophies.” So say Todd Huschka and Heather Ahrens of Studio
Snaidero, a luxury kitchen and bath showroom that specializes in
European living spaces. The showroom opened its doors in 2000, and
has been growing strong ever since.
Kevin Henry, director of Tampa, FL-based Küppers-busch USA,
one of the showroom’s suppliers, believes in this vision. He
nominated the firm in the category of Overall Excellence in
Operating a Kitchen and Bath Dealership, in which it took third
“We definitely design from an emotional perspective. The
designers out of Europe are so artistic and passionate, and we
celebrate that here,” say Huschka and Ahrens.
“One of our greatest strengths is the package we can offer,”
they report. “This combination of luxury European products cannot
be seen anywhere else in one single showroom.”
The product mix includes Snaidero, Küppersbusch, KWC,
Dornbracht, Duravit, Miele, Neo-Metro, Villeroy & Boch and
Valli & Valli, among others.
Independent or Factory Sales Rep of the
Consistent Support Wins
Through his belief in product education and on-going and consistent
customer support, Doug Weatherly, of Weatherly Sales and Marketing
in Richmond, IN, has won the respect and admiration of many a
client, including Jill Brausch of Cincinnati, OH-based Builders
In fact, because of his supportive, patient demeanor, the entire
staff of Builders FirstSource nominated Weatherly for K&BDN’s
2004 Industry Leadership Awards in the category of Independent or
Factory Sales Rep of the Year, in which he won first place.
“He offers, plans, pays for and, often times, teaches training
classes for the products he sells, and also for other programs that
provide tools for sales,” reports Brausch. “He is in every week to
talk to everyone, review updates and answer questions.”
Weatherly goes out of his way to respond, giving out his home
and cell numbers; he delivers, repairs and replaces products to
help speed a project along; and provides updates on the products he
sells via a newsletter.
“Weatherly is always working to increase his customers’ sales,
to the extent of being there for sales presentations, job site
reviews, services and anything else requested,” concludes
Second Place: Lana Ramsey, Whirlpool Corp.,
Union Grove, WI
Rep’s Responsiveness Earns Respect
Compassion, empathy, professionalism and thirst for gaining and
imparting knowledge are what earned Lana Ramsey of Whirlpool Corp.
in Union Grove, WI, second-place honors in the category of
Independent or Factory Sales Rep of the Year.
“Through Lana’s involvement in the Milwaukee building and design
community, she is able to provide us with the latest trends and
marketplace information. The knowledge she shares allows us to
better identify new customers and understand their needs,” explains
Eileen Ziegler of Plymouth, MN-based Guyer’s Builder Supply, a
Whirlpool Corp. trade partner.
“Lana is very much a part of our team, and takes it upon herself
to assist our reps with anything they need to perform their jobs
better,” says Ziegler, who nominated Ramsey for the award.
Her passion for her job and compassion for her customers, the
building and design community and her local community have also won
her the admiration of her customers. In fact, Ziegler points to
Ramsey’s fundraising efforts for Habitat for Humanity that have
yielded more than $10,000 and her service on building association
committees that have allowed her to lobby for issues key to the
growth of the building industry.
Third Place (Tie): Fred Martin, Quality
Custom Cabinetry, New Holland, PA
Rep Goes Above and Beyond for Customers
Personal accountability and commitment to customers is what sets
Fred Martin apart as a sales representative for Quality Custom
Cabinetry, New Holland, PA. Those professional traits are also what
garnered Martin third-place honors in the category of Independent
or Factory Sales Rep of the Year.
Carol Lindell of Design Centers International (DCI) Home
Resource, Charlotte, NC has experienced this first-hand, noting in
her nomination that Martin works to develop a customer/supplier
relationship that goes above and beyond normal expectations.
“Fred has an outstanding sense of personal accountability,” says
Lindell. “He returns phone calls and promptly, and takes ownership
of all issues and questions, rather than deferring them to others.
He participates in training and factory tours with new DCI team
members, and is well versed in all aspects of cabinetry design,
construction and installation.”
Lindell further indicates that Martin has managed to become part
of the DCI family, “despite the sizeable physical distance between
his headquarters and our showroom.
“Fred attended the grand re-opening of our showroom this spring,
and while most reps
arrived at ‘party-time’ to mingle with guests, Fred came hours
before-hand to help us prepare,” she notes.
Third Place (Tie): Marie Letko, KraftMaid
Cabinetry, Inc., Middlefield, OH
Problem-Solving Skills Prove Endearing
Offering prompt assistance, making frequent visits and diligently
providing solutions to problems are what have endeared Marie Letko,
sales rep for KraftMaid Cabinetry, Inc. in Middlefield, OH, to her
customers. In fact, Kurt Rust, designer; Leslie Gudiel,
designer/project manager; and Nancy Larned, designer/project
manager, all with Simi Valley, CA-based Kitchens Etc. of Ventura
County, each nominated Letko in the category of Independent or
Factory Sales Rep of the Year, for which she won third-place
“Marie Letko represents excellence in customer service. She
backs up her promises and commitments, and goes to great lengths to
solve my issues,” says Rust. “When the distributor I was working
for prepared to shut its doors, Marie had a list of employment
options for me, giving me a recommendation that secured the
Gudiel offers, “She makes sure I believe in the product so I can
sell it. She is in constant contact, making sure I attend all of
the training classes and am getting all of the updates on new
“Marie actually visits her accounts. She makes sure we have the
latest information, specs, etc. She genuinely cares about us and
about our clients’ needs. We can count on her,” adds Larned.
Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath
Distribution or “Whotail” Firm
First Place: Bailey Industries, Inc., Leesburg,
Distributor ‘Packages’ Itself for Continued Success
Sometimes success is all in the right packaging.
In the case of Leesburg, FL-based Bailey Industries, Inc. a
distributor of construction industry products and services this
idea certainly rings true. The company took top honors in
K&BDN’s 2004 Industry Leadership Awards in the category of
Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath Distribution or
Founded in 1992, Bailey has taken the idea of packaging success,
or, more specifically, bundling services and products, to the next
level. “Bailey offers a package of value-added services to the
construction industry by bundling services and products that can be
adapted or modified to meet any needs,” explains Ron Jensen,
cabinet division/ sales manager for Daytona Beach, FL-based MASCO
Contract Services, a supplier of Merillat cabinets and Euro
Solutions storage systems for Bailey. Jensen nominated Bailey,
which is run by Eli Bailey, CEO and owner, and Jon Reddell,
“Bailey offers the ability to combine products such as cabinets,
laminate countertops, granite countertops, cultured marble
products, window treatment, electrical wiring, stem work and
flooring to fill any needs,” states Jensen.
The company can also provide either only product or a complete
package that includes design, installation and after-market
service, Jensen adds.
Bailey operates five kitchen and bath showrooms that provide
complete design and installation services geared to consumers,
contractors and builders. An additional four to six showrooms are
planned. Bailey employs 272 employees in the Leesburg headquarters,
and operates a total of seven company-owned branches.
Bailey’s primary products include cabinets, countertops,
appliances, flooring and window treatments. The firm boasts strong
partnerships with both Merillat and GE Appliances.
As a result, overall sales for Bailey have doubled during the
period from 2002 to 2004.
Second Place: V-A-H Marketing, Buena Park,
Providing Quality Customer Service Paves Way for Distributor’s
V-A-H Marketing prides itself on its strong commitment to
providing a high level of service for its dealers and gaining
market share for its suppliers. These have not only led to the
on-going growth and success of the Buena Park, CA-based firm, they
have also captured it second-place honors in the category of
Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath Distribution or
“The V-A-H Marketing mission statement reads, ‘We always strive
to achieve a level of service so outstanding that our customer will
describe it as excellent,'” say Chairman/CEO Richard Bergstrom and
President Robert Bergstrom, who run the firm that was founded 57
years ago by their father, William A. Bergstrom.
Blake Woodall of Vent-A-Hood Corp. in Richardson, TX, who
nominated V-A-H, agrees: “By operating with high ethics, leading
products and [excellent] service, V-A-H Marketing has established
strong dealer loyalty, and can trace many of its on-going dealer
relationships back to the company’s inception in 1947.” Vent-A-Hood
supplies ventilation products to V-A-H.
In fact, says Woodall, “V-A-H is so passionate about its mission
to serve the customer that it does not compete with its dealers. It
offers all dealers the same fair price, and earns their allegiance
by showing them how to increase their profits with quality
Today, V-A-H Marketing is a full-service, wholesale distributor
of high-end appliances with warehouses in northern and southern
California that service Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Hawaii. The
company maintains an 18,000-sq.-ft. building in Buena Park, CA, and
a 15,000-sq.-ft. building in Union City, CA. Both locations have
fully functional luxury showroom space, office space and warehouse
facilities for inventory, service and repairs.