FAIRFIELD — Hard work and close attention to the customer’s needs. For 20 years, that’s been the mantra at Kitchen Tune-Up in Fairfield.
“I think it’s a combination of hard work and really listening to our clients and helping them meet their needs of whatever their remodeling project is,” said owner Stu Reid. “We pride ourselves on great customer service.”
The big part of that is just making sure everything is done the way the customer wants.
“It really comes down to listening and meeting our clients’ need and helping them realize their dream of a beautiful kitchen or a beautiful bathroom,” Reid said.
While the principles of the business haven’t changed in two decades, Reid said just about everything else has.
“A lot of things have changed in that time. Certainly our business itself has changed,” he said. “When we started, we were primarily doing cabinet finish restoration – try to restore it as close as possible to new.”
Since then, Kitchen Tune-Up has added services and expanded its scope of work to include whole kitchens and bathrooms.
One of the biggest changes is in the way people shop, Reid said.
“About 15 years ago we opened a showroom in downtown Fairfield,” Reid said. “Then about three years ago, it just sort of dawned on me that people weren’t coming into the showroom the way they used to.”
That was a big shift in the business, he said.
“For years our first contact with customers was when they walked through the showroom doors,” Reid said. “Now they’re going to the website, they’re finding us online and they’re calling us to come to them.”
So Kitchen Tune-Up left downtown for a smaller place with a design studio that’s open by appointment.
“That’s made a big difference in our ability to meet our customers’ needs and deal with our clients the way they want to be dealt with and the way they’re shopping now,” Reid said.
The Internet has had a big impact on the business.
“Clients go to our website, they use the design tool on our website and often by the time they contact us, they’ve already laid out their kitchen and know what the kitchen’s going to look like and what products they want,” Reid said.
Even with the increased use of the Internet, there’s a need for human interaction. That’s where Reid and his staff shine.
“They still want and need a little professional guidance,” he said.
It’s a big change, just like everything else about the business.
Reid said that when he started, he carried just a handful of cabinet door samples, and now there’s far too many to do that. The same goes for hardware, countertops and plumbing fixtures. One of the biggest challenges has been weathering the economy.
“It’s been tough. The most recent recession was especially hard, but we tightened our belts and downsized where we had to,” Reid said. “I went back to carrying tools in my vehicle again. I had kind of gotten away from that part – you do what you have to to keep the business open and to make sure we’re providing the best possible products and services to our clients.”
Prior to the recession, Reid had nine installers alone, with two sales people and an office staff. Now he’s down to six total.
“In a small business, the employees are like family,” Reid said. “You get to know employees really well. You know their families. It’s just brutal.”
The biggest part of staying in business for 20 years has been the customers.
“We have repeat business, a lot of word of mouth and our customers are great,” Reid said. “We tend to spend a lot of time with our clients, particularly if it’s a new kitchen.”
That includes spending time in their homes.
“In the design phase, we’re working in their homes anywhere from a day to several days, so we get to know our clients well and that’s the fun part. Meeting great people, interacting with them, learning what makes them tick, what their likes and dislikes are.”
One of those customers, Susan Kukuchka, found Kitchen Tune-Up at a home improvement fair in the past year.
“I was trying to find someone I could work with that wasn’t pushy,” she said. “I got to see him. He just stood back and talked about what I wanted.”
Once a plan was in place for her kitchen, she said the company was flexible.
“What was great about them was that even though we had made decisions, there were things we wanted to change and it wasn’t a problem,” Kukuchka said. “And the quality of the work is really kickin’.”
Along with the attentiveness, she said Reid and his people provided some custom solutions when drawers couldn’t open because of the proximity to the double oven. The work was also done in a prompt manner.
“I needed to have it done on time because I was having a family reunion and he made sure it got done,” Kukuchka said of Reid. “I wanted a ‘wow’ kitchen and everybody comes in and says, ‘Wow.’ ”
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.