Key to the success of this bath and kitchen showroom is customer service. 

Photos courtesy of Kolson Inc.

Customers remember you best for how you take care of problems, especially after the purchase, says Dale Landy, vice president of Kolson Inc., based in Great Neck, NY.

“If they have a problem with a faucet or a cartridge, we get the problem solved. Customers remember that,” she says.

The company still rejects the concept of voice mail in favor of answering the phone themselves for enhanced customer service. Staff members are encouraged to be more sociable on the phone and coached to answer, “Thank you for calling Kolson, how may I help you?”

Kolson will send someone to a job site to troubleshoot, or if no one is available, will arrange for a sales rep to do it, she notes.

Showroom hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Appointments are not required, but if someone wants to make an appointment, we will do it,” Landy says. “We tell customers to come on Saturday morning if they want to avoid a crowd and shop at leisure.”

About The Company

As of November 2010 Kolson will achieve 50 years in business. This milestone is being promoted on the company’s Web site, in all of Kolson’s ads and in the showroom. The company remains under the same ownership and has been buying from some vendors for more than 40 years, from others for 25 years.

Current company president John Landy and his father, Louis, bought Kolson Hardware, a general hardware store, in 1960. The company was moved to its current location in 1970.

While the general hardware business was steady, John Landy discovered an increasing desire for high-end plumbing fixtures and decorative hardware not found in the typical hardware store. He and his wife, Ruth, started attending trade shows in the United States, Germany, England, Spain, Italy and France to establish relationships with top American and European manufacturers.

In 1975, just as the new Kolson business model was emerging, Louis Landy died. The 5,000-sq.-ft. downstairs showroom retained its focus on decorative hardware. The 5,000-sq.-ft. apartment space upstairs was converted into a bath and kitchen showroom in 1981.

Dale Landy joined her parents in the business in 1985 and took over administrative duties of the business when her mother died in 2003.

Today the company operates both as a master distributor and as a bath and kitchen showroom selling to homeowners and the trade.

Kolson does not belong to any buying group but is a member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, and John Landy is a member of the Door and Hardware Institute.

Changes And Updates

In the 1990s Dale Landy supervised the renovation of the showroom, inside and out. The exterior was redone in 1995; the downstairs showroom was remodeled in 1996; and the upstairs showroom was renovated in 1997.

Today the first floor showroom displays decorative exterior and interior door hardware, cabinet and window hardware including knobs, handles, hinges, latches, switch plates, register covers and mail box slots, all in a wide variety of styles and finishes. The second floor bath and kitchen showroom features a large selection of faucets, sinks, toilets, mirrors, medicine cabinets and bathroom accessories. Kolson also offers tubs, whirlpools, shower enclosures, toilets, bidets, and more recently, vanities.

Vignette displays have been discontinued in favor of grouping products together by type and vendor. Displays are movable, so a faucet can be easily taken from a display over to a sink.

“This year is better than last year,” Landy says. “We are moving out of the recession, but it will be a slow recovery.” People are starting to show a renewed interest in bath remodels and updated hardware. However, the business is not like it was three to four years ago and may never be like that again, she notes.

To address the changes in buying behavior, Kolson now offers more good/better/best product options. “If a customer can’t afford a $1,000 faucet, we show them a $500 model,” Landy says. “We try to appeal to everyone’s financial needs, but we will never compromise on quality. In this economy people are really watching what they spend - they want to be sure they are getting value for their dollars.”

Kolson’s Web site has been updated within the past year to show a wider range of their product selection, but the company does not sell off the site, Landy says. Instead, the Web site is used as an information tool and teaser, to encourage people to visit the showroom.

Trends And Goals

“We are always looking for new merchandise to improve our selection,” Landy asserts. “We want to be on the cutting edge. We feel it’s important to attend the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show to see what is out there.”

There has been a slight decline in sales of luxury tubs with added features, such as aromatherapy and chromatherapy, due to the economy, she adds.

While there are occasional sales of saunas, the showroom tends to sell more steam systems. There seems to be a growing preference for bidet seats vs. the bidet fixture.

“We have seen a slight resurgence in interest in contemporary styling, but still sell a lot of traditional,” Landy says.

Customer demographics have not changed significantly, she adds.

“Without the customer you don’t have sales,” she says. “Keeping the customer happy is the focal point of our business.”