Cayce Mill Supply's new 8,600-sq.-ft. showroom is designed to impress both homeowners and trade professionals.

A 16-foot high ceiling in the entrance area. Clusters of sparkling chandeliers. A working kitchen large enough to accommodate 20 to 30 people or more. Alcove after alcove with tastefully decorated product groupings or vignettes.

A 16-foot high ceiling in the entrance area. Clusters of sparkling chandeliers. A working kitchen large enough to accommodate 20 to 30 people or more. Alcove after alcove with tastefully decorated product groupings or vignettes. This is what a visitor sees upon entering the newly renovated facility that wholesaler Cayce Mill Supply has opened as a bath/kitchen/lighting showroom at its headquarters in Hopkinsville, KY.

The Masco Design Group helped create the layout for the showroom and L&L Group did the building.

“When someone walks in the door, we want them to say, “Wow!” says Breck Cayce, president of the three-branch distributor. “There is nothing like this within 200 to 300 miles. We are trying to encourage selling up. Customers can see what a good product looks like in a natural, homelike setting. We want to show options - good/better/best - and let the customer make the decision. If we don't offer the better and best options, they will never choose those products, or they will choose them from somebody else.”

The showroom is divided in half: the right side is mostly plumbing, the left side is mostly cabinetry and lighting, according to Julie Traughber, showroom coordinator. Specialty items and products from its primary vendors are displayed in the front area.

[Insert photo and create Thumbnail: 0406Cayce_entrance.jpeg] Caption: The Masco Design Group helped create the layout for the showroom and L&L Group did the building. “With the right mix of products, a showroom can be a tremendous profit center,” Cayce asserts. “If you just show basic plumbing fixtures, your showroom will struggle. Kitchen cabinets, for example, bring a lot of extra profit dollars to the showroom.”

The Cayce family: Breck and his wife, Linda, with sons BJ and Bart.

Then and Now

The new 8,600-sq.-ft. showroom should wow customers who patronized the wholesaler's former showroom in Hopkinsville. The new showroom opened in a building formerly occupied by Phelps Dodge Magnet Wire Co., with 200,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space and 10,000 sq. ft. of office. Cayce Mill Supply announced its purchase of this facility in January 2005.

The wholesaler's first showroom opened 34 years ago as a basic black and white plumbing showroom, with black and white tiles and only white fixtures. The lighting was bare and basic. Choice was limited. The showroom did not sell cabinets but did sell electrical. There was only enough space to display about one-third of the products the company sold.

“The showroom was packed with so much product, it was like wading through a jungle,” Cayce remembers. “The salespeople were on top of each other. There was no privacy; customers could hear other people's conversations.”

About 15 years ago the showroom was remodeled, Traughber says, describing it as “the typical 'Thomas ceiling system' lighting showroom with plumbing and cabinetry tucked underneath and in between.” It was about 3,000 sq. ft.

“It was crowded and lacked style,” Traughber says. “We had many stylish products, but were not able to showcase them well.” The former showroom was on the “main drag” of Hopkinsville, so it drew substantial walk-in business for small items, such as lamp parts and light bulbs, she notes.

Julie Traughber is showroom coordinator.

“The most important change from the old showroom is that we are now able to show all our products and how they all work together,” Traughber says. “The showroom gives customers real-life scenarios and fresh design ideas. They love it. It's a real dream come true for the showroom staff. We no longer have to ask customers to imagine what our products can do or how they coordinate. It's all here to see and feel.”

The larger space has enabled the wholesaler to create vignettes of bathrooms and kitchens and showcase cabinetry, lighting, appliances and countertops in addition to the traditional tubs, showers, faucets and sinks. Both the men's and women's restrooms are equipped with different brands and models of toilets so customers can compare the flush.

Lamps and mirrors are scattered around the showroom. An oil painting by Linda Cayce, Breck Cayce's wife, who serves as executive assistant at the company, hangs over a fireplace.

Trish Collins is one of the three designers who works in the kitchen cabinet area.

One-stop Shop Its cabinetry business has helped Cayce Mill Supply expand into offering home entertainment centers and mantles/cabinetry to surround fireplaces and it now has the space to display them.

“Our staff can design fireplace surrounds and we also sell fireplaces,” Traughber says.

Not all of these products are stocked in its warehouse - appliances, cabinetry and most countertops are special ordered. Some basic vanities are stocked in the warehouse, the others must be special ordered. The wholesaler stocks lighting products but has some on display that it does not carry in inventory.

“We have been in the lighting business since the company opened,” Cayce says. “We are bigger in electrical sales than in plumbing.”

BJ (left) and Bart Cayce show the large, working kitchen.

The showroom has several kitchen vignettes that display different appliances. Cayce Mill sells General Electric and Jenn-Air appliances. A working display of showerheads includes a new electronic showerhead by Ondine with built-in lights that add color while the water flows and jetted showerheads from Delta and Brizo, among others. The wholesaler has a long-term relationship with Masco Corp. and carries most of its brands, including Alsons, Aqua Glass, BrassCraft, Brizo and Delta. Other brands carried include Basco, Bootz, Dearborn Brass, Elkay, Eljer, Gerber, Jason, Moen, Mr. Steam, Oatey, Olsonite, Ondine, Sloan, Swan and TOTO. Cayce Mill Supply belongs to the Wit buying group and supports its member vendors.

The new showroom has bathroom vignettes to provide design ideas, something it had been unable to do in its former location. “We try to provide a good picture of how fixtures can be coordinated with accessories,” Traughber says.

Two working whirlpool tubs, a Jason combination air bath/whirlpool tub and an Aqua Glass whirlpool, are displayed adjacent to each other so customers can compare their performance. The wholesaler has opted to limit the number of working displays in the new showroom due to the required maintenance.

“We are trying to be a one-stop store,” Cayce says. “You can pick up everything you need right here. We can sell our customers everything for the home except windows and doors.”

Cayce and Traughber note that today's consumers are better educated regarding bath and kitchen products and sometimes enter the showroom with the model numbers of what they want. “We can show them different price points,” Traughber says.

For example, in one of the kitchen vignettes, the granite countertop of the island is shown with a lower priced laminate countertop flanking the sink, featuring the same color and pattern as the granite. Countertops in the vignettes are shown in different materials including Silestone, Formica, marble, quartz and laminates.

Sinks are displayed in pull-out drawers.

Showroom Operations

To save energy and maintain a more comfortable temperature in the showroom, light sensors have been installed in the ceiling to turn on the display lighting as someone approaches the area so that the product grouping or vignette becomes suddenly illuminated when the customer reaches it.

[Insert photo and create Thumbnail: 0406Cayce_sinks.jpeg] Caption: Sinks are displayed in pull-out drawers. Showroom hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturdays. Appointments are encouraged.

The showroom has six employees, including three designers who work in the kitchen cabinet area: Trish Collins, Vicki Snarr and Abbye Tatum. “Everything is computerized,” Cayce says. “They have their own CAD program so they can turn out 3D kitchen pictures. We invested in that technology.”

Donna Thurman is showroom manager. Many of the showroom people have been with the company 15 years or longer.

The wholesaler also sells fireplaces and helps design fireplace surrounds.

“The key thing for a successful showroom is having good employees,” Cayce says. The wholesaler looks for showroom employees with basic interior design skills who understand how to put together colors and finishes, he notes. It can take 90 to 120 days to train a showroom person, which includes both product knowledge and learning the company's computer system. Training is done by the company's own purchasing staff and sales reps. The new facility has a training room that can seat 150 people. The room is also used for customer dinners and HVAC dealer meetings. In addition, the company encourages civic groups to use its facilities for meetings.

A children's playroom was included in the new showroom for customers' convenience. It has a large glass window so the children can see their parents as they shop and the parents can keep an eye on their children as they play.

The wholesaler offers another convenience to showroom customers: delivery service on its own fleet of trucks, pick-ups and vans, all bearing its logo.

Cayce Mill Supply has been a Prophet 21 user for about 18 years but only in more recent years, since hiring an IT director, Andy Pryor, has the wholesaler progressed beyond using the bare basics of its system. “It has made a big difference in our profitability and customer service,” Cayce says. “Now we are using it not just as a bookkeeping machine, but as a tool to improve our business.”

Consolidating Locations

The new facility replaces three locations the wholesaler had operated in different buildings in Hopkinsville for its HVAC division, lighting design showroom, outdoor power equipment division and counter sales/corporate office.

“We knew we had outgrown our other facilities and showroom,” Cayce says. “We saw this as an opportunity and jumped on it.”

Besides the showroom, the facility has 150,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space and the balance is for the corporate headquarters. The wholesaler's other two locations, in Owensboro and Russellville, KY, also have their own warehouses, although they are smaller - 25,000 to 30,000 sq. ft. - so they draw additional supplies from this warehouse.

The showroom has a working display of showerheads.

Promoting business

The wholesaler conducted a survey to be sure the move would not hurt sales or traffic. Results indicated that 95% of the people who came to the showroom were sent by builders, had seen an ad for the showroom or had heard about it from someone else.

“That made us feel that people would find us, even though we would no longer be on the main drag through Hopkinsville,” Cayce says.

Cayce Mill continues to advertise the showroom on cable TV, local TV stations, radio, and plenty of direct mail and flyers.

“To make the showroom profitable, the most important thing is to get the word out so everyone can see what it looks like,” Cayce says. “We do this through advertising, builders and salesmen.”

Often the wholesaler gets leads from its sales counter. A plumber will mention he's building a house for someone and Cayce Mill's sales staff will try to contact the homeowner.

The distributor's target customers can be divided into two groups: builders/contractors and consumers/homeowners. It markets to both groups. The scope of its customers' projects ranges from the person building a single bathroom to construction of a conference center, school or hotel.

Cayce Mill Supply services customers in a radius of 75 to 100 miles from Hopkinsville, according to BJ Cayce, one of Breck Cayce's sons who has become involved in the business.

It faces competition from big box retailers in Hopkinsville, KY, and in Clarksville and Nashville, TN.

Since 1994 the company has had “tremendous growth,” expanding with two locations acquired from independent supply houses in Owensboro, KY and Russellville, KY, Cayce says

The counter sales area supports the showroom by providing leads to contractors or homeowners who are building or renovating.

Although this growth warranted the move to a larger headquarters, Cayce says he would not have done it if not for his two sons, BJ and Bart Cayce, who decided to join the family business. BJ has an agronomy degree and Bart earned an agricultural engineering degree.

“I'm 10 years from retirement,” Breck Cayce confides. “Now the next generation has come on board. Because of their interest in the business and their work ethic, this is a big opportunity for us and for the community, especially for the people who work here.”

BJ Cayce is taking the position of sales manager after serving in the plumbing purchasing department for the last four years.

“My family farms,” BJ says. “I started here about a year after my graduation from college. I joined the company because of pride in the family business and because I want to see it go on for the generation after mine.” BJ's wife is expecting their first child this spring.

Bart says he also farmed for a time before joining the company in January 2005. He oversaw the removal and construction of the new headquarters facility, including the showroom and warehouse. He also cited pride in the family business as the reason for joining the company.

The company shares a family atmosphere with its employees, Bart says. It hosts a picnic every summer for employees and their families and invites employees to bring their spouses to an annual Christmas party.

“There is no one working here you would not want to have lunch with,” BJ Cayce says. “When the employees come to work, Breck Cayce is already here. He is the first one in the office and the last one to leave.”

Next on the company's agenda is renovation of its other showrooms.

Cayce Mill Supply recently acquired a competitor and converted its supply house into an “express store” that operates under the name, CMS Express. It only carries “A” items, offering about $250,000 worth of inventory in electrical, plumbing and HVAC. This is its first attempt at this type of business.

Company History

Cayce Mill Supply was founded in 1919 by Clinton H. Cayce (Breck Cayce's great-grandfather) who was joined in the business by his son, Granville Cayce Sr. (Breck Cayce's grandfather). The company took its name based on its product mix: sawmill and grain milling supplies, farm machinery items, farm supplies, pipe and fittings, and roofing materials. Granville Cayce Jr. (Breck Cayce's father) joined the company as president in 1947, upon the death of his father. He served in that capacity until about 1990, and passed away in 1991. Breck Cayce's uncle, Robert Cayce, joined the family business in 1952 and retired in 1999. Breck Cayce became president in 1992.

Currently the company has 87 employees company-wide. It has three branches: Hopkinsville, Owensboro and Russellville, KY, each with its own showroom.

The executive staff of the company includes: Breck Cayce, president; Brooke Rives, purchasing director; John Brown, operations; Sue Dade, chief financial officer; BJ Cayce, sales manager; and Andy Pryor, IT.