Forte Buying Group, a member-owned group of high-end decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms, held its first biannual conference in Bloomingdale, Ill., in October. The new buying group was organized and incorporated in August in Houston.

Touted as a national marketing and procurement group of decorative plumbing and hardware dealers, Forte is a separate organization from the six-year-old Bath and Kitchen Buying Group. BKBG is a member-owned buying group for local and regional kitchen and bath dealers, wholetailers and distributors who design, specify and sell product. Currently BKBG has about 183 members with 234 showrooms in 38 states. The group has a Preferred Vendor Program with more than 75 participating vendors, designed to increase profitability and gain market share for both member showrooms and vendors.

"About two years ago it became apparent there was a need for a specific group focused on high-end decorative plumbing and hardware," said Edward Schukar, executive director of both BKBG and Forte. "Forte was established for the high-end DPH independent retail showroom, which may be a freestanding operation or part of another business, such as a division of a wholesale plumbing supply company."

Selling a faucet for $1,000 to $2,000 is an art, said Annamary Kennell, decorative plumbing and hardware specialist. "The true DPH showroom is comfortable with that and strives for that as a goal. The average kitchen and bath showroom prefers to show faucets in the $300 to $500 range."

DPH showroom owners are order-makers rather than order-takers, Kennell said. They are willing to try new or imported products earlier than the big-boxes, which prefer to wait until there is demand for a product.

"The DPH showroom owner wants to understand how each product works and be able to convey features and benefits to the end-user," Kennell said.

The big advantage a DPH showroom has over the big-box store is the consistent quality of its staff, said Bob Lando of Chicago-based Community Home Supply, the newly elected president of Forte.

"We have low turnover and offer personal attention," Lando said. "We have built our business on that. While we are a traditional plumbing wholesaler in some respects, we put a heavy emphasis on our showrooms and kitchen and bath products."

Other elected officers of Forte are: Mike McKenzie, Pierce Hardware (Dallas), first vice president; Faye Norton, Designer Hardware (Oklahoma City), vice president; Chuck Savko, The Bath & Brass Emporium (Columbus, Ohio), treasurer; and Vicki Pfeil, Miller's Fine Decorative Hardware (Jupiter, Fla.), secretary.

"The education we will offer to Forte members and vendors will be every bit as important as the monetary benefits," Schukar said. Hank Darlington, consultant and Supply House Times columnist, was the featured speaker at Forte's first conference.

For more information about either group, contact Ed Shukar at 713/723-3545. In addition, BKBG has a Web site at