Capital Construction’s beautiful showroom in Collierville, TN is open again, and its employees are operating under certain restrictions, like wearing face masks upon request. Gage and the Designer Wholesale team are working to become even more efficient, as they get back to doing what they do best: remodeling and refinishing homes.
See the transcript below.
Anna Bell: Hello everyone. I’m Anna Bell, and today, I’m so thankful to have with us Designer Wholesale’s General Manager, Gage Morefield, with us to talk about Designer Wholesale’s plan to operate under the current social restrictions as businesses again to reopen post-Covid-19 shut down. Gage, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today.
Gage Morefield: Thank you for having me.
AB: Yeah, absolutely. So let’s just jump right in. Did Designer Wholesale have to stop work during the shutdown?
GM: So, no, not technically. We are a licensed plumber and therefore we were considered an essential service. However, most of our business is centered around kitchen and bathroom upgrades for nicer homes. And, therefore a lot of our customers, they did request that we stop working just to kind of see how things were going to go in the areas so our business slowed down quite a bit. And we did continue to work for some people, but for most of our customers, we just limited activity to not work in their homes. But everybody’s starting to feel a little more comfortable, and we’re conducting business as normal today. We’re a construction based company. We have a gorgeous showroom in Collierville, Tennessee. We’ve branded ourselves as a one stop shop for kitchen and bathrooms.
GM: So, we’re a hybrid business that utilizes the product and design capabilities at our showroom. Reproduce all of that at a home office. And then the construction aspect of carrying out the – from the design phase and turning it into reality in someone’s kitchen. We can’t obviously do that from our homes. We have to do that in your home, for example, for your customers. So, working from home now, a lot of our customers who are doing that, hanging around the house while we’re working, which is something new, but we welcome that. You know, it’s kind of fun for them to seeing the transformation happen before their eyes. But, no, we just kept a rural small skeleton staff at our physical office and when we limited our showroom traffic, that kind of kept our office workers safe and there was no need to send them home.
AB: I see. Yeah. Okay. That makes sense. So kind of tell me how you guys have gotten creative during the shutdown when you didn’t have the showroom open, you know, what were you guys doing?
GM: So, yeah, a few things that we changed. We are suggesting that we do set appointments for customers who want to visit the showroom. Our doors are open during our regular business hours. However, through our website and social media, we’ve just made the suggestion that you can so come up here if you want to, but to try to keep social distancing and not too many people in the building all at once. And so our sales staff are focused on giving you better individual attention. We’ve suggested that you set an appointment for the sort of showroom and on site for in customers’ homes where we’re actually doing the work, we do have masks and gloves that we’ve provided for our workers if the customer, so desires then to wear them.
GM: We’ve also stepped up our containment in working in people’s homes, there’s always been a dust factor that, while you’re doing demo, and sheet rock repairs particularly, you want to try to contain the dust as best as possible. So we’ve just taken that up a notch and are providing a more professional grade containment system that should set homeowners at ease. And then we’re also offering at the end of your renovation, we’re having a local sanitation company come in behind us and provide a complete disinfectant cleaning at your home when we’re done with your kitchen, your bathrooms. So when we tell you it’s ready to use, you feel that safe that we’ve cleaned everything down. However, none of our staff or nobody that we know has had the virus, but you know, we still want to make people feel safe. And also in our showroom where, even though the traffic is very limited here, we’re wiping down door knobs and handrails and things every day, things that we didn’t use to do that, we had a cleaning crew come once a week and our showroom was always very clean, but taking a few extra steps just to wipe down some of those heavily touched areas.
AB: Right. Oh, I know, that’s well on top of everybody’s mind. Just making sure you do everything possible to stay clean and not get infected. You know, talk to us about some of those scheduled projects maybe before the shut down. How were those affected? I know you said you were essential, but were timeline wise or maybe, you know, getting materials shipped to you or something were those projects affected in any way during the shutdowns?
GM: Yeah, literally every single ongoing project we had, with the exception of two that I can think of, came to an absolute halt. So yeah, our workers had to, they got some great time off to spend with their families at home.
AB: That’s the silver lining, right?
GM: It is. It is. And so it did create problems. But you know, it also gave us… so our renovation company turned 20 years old last October. So we’ve been around for a long time and, it was quite a shock to have to come to a complete halt and I’m sure many, many business owners felt that way. But we took that time as administrators to review our business, some of our expenses. What were we doing for advertising? What’s some of our overhead? How we’ve always conducted businesses, is there are way back from this besides, cleaning and different things because of the virus? Is there a way that we can come back stronger as a business so we could… it forced us to take a closer look at things that we were just doing out of habit and can we do something better to become more efficient and ultimately serve the community better? We came up with some great ideas and as I mentioned, we’re back to work now. Almost all of those jobs that were on hold, we’ve started them all back up and we’re even starting new new projects that, we hadn’t gotten started yet before the virus. And we’re excited about future.
AB: That’s great. We’ve all had to put our thinking caps on, haven’t we? And now that we’re in phase one of businesses reopening, kinda tell us, have there been any opportunities that have come about since the shut down? Are you doing maybe any digital design work, anything like that that might be new?
GM: You know, we have a talked about some different ideas. We have offered to do some consultations, kind of long distance, like how you and I are talking now. We’ve had some customers inquire about renovation work. Like a daughter reached out about remodeling a bathroom for her elderly mother who was sick. And she sent pictures via email and measurements and we were able to give her a quote without ever setting foot into the house. Clearly, eventually at some point to do a proper job, we would need to visit her home. But yeah, we’ve tried to come up with some ways to adapt them and adjust. But I think it’s a two way street. While while we’re trying to maybe come up with some ideas like that, that’ll be helpful for some people, from the consumer’s perspective, they’re also being seat at ease and ready to get back to life to and maybe don’t necessarily want to change the way that we used to do things. So I think together businesses and the consumer are gonna meet in the middle and find a way to get back to normal.
AB: I think you’re right. I mean, we’ve had so much time now to kind of slow down and think and like look and say, Hey, you know what, my bathroom really needs some loving right now. You know, like my kitchen is needing a little facelift. You know, I can imagine you’re probably gonna have a few phone calls. What do you expect for the next few weeks and months? Are you expecting maybe to get a few more phone calls?
GM: So two part answer to that question. No, we’re not expecting anything. We don’t know. This is all, we’re actually taking the approach of expecting the worst. However, I will tell you that, yes, the last week or two has been any indication of what the rest of the year is going to look like. We’re starting to feel a little bit better. You know, another thing is helping us is interest rates are so low. I think a lot of people are going to take advantage of that, whether that’s by going ahead and buying that first home that they’ve been on the fence about or refinancing out of higher mortgage rates or mortgage insurance to take advantage of the super low rates, then maybe free up a home equity line of credit or get them some extra money to renovate their house. So I think even though people are a little uneasy about the financial state of things in the world right now, somethings that have happened because of that, like low interest rates I think, will possibly spark some consumer activity towards businesses like ours.
AB: I tend to agree with you. I think those are all really good points and something to think about for sure. Do you think that the coronavirus will impact how we design spaces in the future? I mean, what might become the new normal when it comes to designing, you know, residential spaces like kitchens and bathrooms like you guys are doing?
GM: I don’t know. That’s a very curious question. I mean, I think since the beginning of design ideas, the technology and different products have always tended to advance our ability to stay clean and keep clean. The hard surface countertops and stainless steel and glass and metals get incorporated into our every day cabinets and counters and appliances. So I don’t know, again, there are many aspects of this whole situation are quite curious and you know, nobody is going to know until we look back 50 years from now to see what effects they have on society moving forward. But I think we’re in a good, good place considering where we were six weeks ago and, we’re going to move forward and we’re the United States of America. We’re going to be fine.
AB: That’s right. Light at the end of the tunnel and that, right. Good. Well, I’m glad to hear it. Gage, we sincerely appreciate your time and your insight today and kind of giving us an insight into what, what’s going on with you guys over at, at Designer Wholesale. So thank you. Until next time, I’m Anna Bell wishing you all a well wishes from our home to yours, as we all navigate through this new normal.