A year ago, Luxury Products Group member Heritage Kitchen & Bath opened its doors in the trendy urban renewal development officially known as “Downtown Huntsville,” in Huntsville, Alabama.
It has been a whirlwind year for Showroom Manager Heather Herrington and her team as they’ve worked hard to establish a highly visible presence in Huntsville’s vibrant building and design community.
Unlike many luxury showrooms, Heritage puts much of its focus on professional trade customers rather than consumers. “We designed our showroom to be a comfortable place where designers, architects and builders can come to be inspired when working on projects for their clients,” Herrington says. “Our goal is that they feel like our showroom is an extension of their offices.
“The space we’re providing has also endeared us to new designers around town who may not have their own offices yet. They can use our space to sit down and have meetings with their clients. It also gives them the chance to use our experience in the world of plumbing and fill in some of the blanks on specs they don’t necessarily already know. We want to be their liaison for any technical information they may need. In return, these newer designers have given us tremendous support.”
To begin engaging with local trade professionals, Heritage hosted an invitation-only soft opening last fall. It chose a speakeasy theme that proved to be a huge hit and created a great deal of buzz.
“We really got into the spirit of the event,” Herrington says. “We hired some guys who dressed like ‘roughnecks’ to be out front, and as guests arrived they acted all ‘hush-hush’ and told guests to go around back. Guests walked down an alley to the back entrance where a service elevator brought them up to our second-floor showroom. There were Prohibition posters hanging in the alley and elevator, but when the doors opened for guests to enter our showroom, it was all glitz and glamour.
“We really appreciated the generosity of one of our LPG vendors, Jaclo, in sponsoring this special event. It set the stage in our market of who we are and what we can do. We followed that up with an official grand opening for the community last March, which was very well-received and drew a great mix of consumers as well as trade professionals we had been getting to know.”
Herrington wanted to create an exclusive, boutique atmosphere, and being on the second floor with walls of windows gives the showroom an open loft feel. The surrounding neighborhood with its many shops, restaurants, parks and condos, lends the ideal atmosphere. When setting up appointments with customers, Herrington and her team encourage them to take their time and make a day of their visit to Downtown Huntsville, including directions for the most convenient parking garage and restaurant choices.
When customers walk in they are greeted by a design consultant and offered beverages. If they’d like assistance, a member of the Heritage team will take them on a guided tour, but if they’re prefer to browse on their own for a bit, the Heritage staff encourages customers to start on one side and then circles back with them at about the halfway point. About one-third of the displays are working units, including tubs, shower systems, sinks, faucets and toilets.
“We do like to be hands-on with our working display areas so customers can fully experience each product,” Herrington says. “We have a working Jason MicroSilk tub, and an open-air shower wall with nine fully working shower fixtures so they each have all of the components they would have if installed in customers’ homes. There is a console control wall in front of the area so customers can get a feel for controlling the different elements of the shower systems and how they’ll function in their homes. We also take them through our kitchen sink and faucet displays and then circle back into the bathroom area where there are vignettes created with a movable modern look.”
Along the way, Herrington and her team invite customers to appreciate pieces of local artwork hanging throughout the showroom. Heritage and many of the businesses in Downtown Huntsville are locally owned, and Herrington feels it is important as a local business to support local artists as well. Herrington says the artist created these pieces especially for the Heritage showroom, and loves the way the epoxied abstract art complements the showroom’s design and products.
Toward the rear of the showroom are work stations where customers can get comfortable, leave their bags, spread out plans or wish boards, and talk with Heritage showroom consultants about their impressions of products in the showroom.
“We invite customers to pull things off the displays and walk around with them to look at the finishes and colors in different lighting,” Herrington shares. “We also encourage them to bring various pieces to the work stations to narrow down their choices and see how products will look together.
“We want our space to speak to every customer who walks in with a perfect blend of glamour and relaxation. We have a new tagline — ‘How will you define luxury?’ that sets the tone for our showroom experience. We encourage customers to think about what luxury means to them, and we have products that will appeal to virtually all customers’ tastes.”
The Booming Huntsville Market
The showroom opened at an ideal time to take advantage of the booming Huntsville housing market. “We’ve always had a large military presence with Redstone Arsenal employing more than 36,000 active-duty military, government employees and contractors, and Huntsville has even been coined the ‘Pentagon of the South,’” Herrington says. “But now we are constantly hearing about more major companies moving their headquarters here or a portion of their operations. The economy and population is booming, so it’s an ideal time for us to be there ready to support the local builders, architects, designers and contractors.”
Besides Herrington, who as she describes herself, “bounces around from place to place, making sales calls, cold calls, gathering ideas for new activities,” the showroom is also home to a recent interior design school graduate and another who comes from a medical sales background. Herrington says she has great confidence in their knowledge, commitment to service and level of capabilities.
Not one to just sit back and let the business come to her, Herrington is committed to personally participating in nearly every relevant group meeting or event in their trading area, and ensures Heritage takes on just the right sponsorships to keep their name in the public eye. In fact, as part of an email exchange with a business networking group, Herrington was virtually introduced to a local wine festival promoter and saw great value in sponsoring the grape stomping area. Using a freestanding tub as the “stomping” ground, patrons smashed thousands of grapes with their friends and family, taking pictures to commemorate the occasion. They are also very active with Downtown Huntsville Inc, a champion for downtown property owners, business owners, tourist attractions, business organizations, advocacy groups, neighborhood associations and residents from throughout the city, helping to provide a vibrant and economically strong city center.
“I truly do not think we could have had such a successful first year in this market without that level of community involvement,” she says.
Unlike many of her peers, the plumbing business is something totally new for her; Herrington had not been involved in plumbing until just a few years ago when she started with Heritage’s parent company. She credits being part of LPG as very instrumental to the showroom’s success.
“We are fortunate to be part of Luxury Products Group,” she says. “I’m very into ‘my tribe,’ and LPG is filled with incredibly talented members whose strong bonds are formed at the annual conferences. In my first year, I experienced the way members share valuable practices with each other.
“It’s been quite a learning curve getting my bearings. You can’t put a price tag on the information my mentors and peers have been so willing to share with me. And I would love to be able to share with them in return as I grow.”