“When I was 20 years old, my father helped me start this business,” Andy Proctor said. “He trusted me.” Andy’s new business had belonged to a long-time family friend. It was called Jamestown Marble at the time. Today, 24 years later, Andy adds, “It’s worked our well. Last year and this year are on track to be among our biggest years ever.”
The business, originally in Randolph, has undergone a radical transformation over the past 24 years. Andy moved the store to Falconer and finally to the former 7-Up and Coca-Cola bottling plant in Jamestown to gain more showroom space. “Instead of just selling marble countertops, the business evolved into Jamestown Kitchen and Bath. Now we specialize in kitchen and bath design because that’s what people want. That’s why we’re outselling the big box stores by at least four to one.”
Andy Proctor is happy to explain his not-so-secret “secret formula” for success. “I didn’t learn it in college,” he says with a knowing smile, “I learned it on the job.” That principle appears to be the blueprint for all profitable small businesses; personal, knowledgeable service. “Even our newest employee has been here for 10 years,” Andy explains. “Everybody here knows our business inside and out.”
“If you shop at one of those mega-stores that pop up all across the country,” Proctor warns, “you might find a clerk in their kitchen and bath department with eight years of experience. But then he tells you he just got transferred from lawn tractors a month ago. Service? I don’t think so.”
Products for kitchen and bath have evolved over the years to meet consumer demands. Formica, the ever popular, decorative, high quality laminate for countertops was invented exactly 100 years ago this year. It remains a cornerstone product. However, Jamestown Kitchen and Bath, at different times, added “cultured marble”—a mixture of fiberglass, resins, crushed limestone and pigments—and DuPont Corian—an acrylic polymer with synthetic mineral chips and pigments as durable and highly customizable kitchen and bath solutions.
As the prices of the synthetics came down with easier fabricating methods, luxury products like polished granite, have also come down in price to stay competitive, making it even more popular. “A business has to evolve to give customers what they want,” Proctor explains with a ready smile. “And you need a sense of humor too. Who knows, maybe we’ll be selling bicycles 20 years from now!”
Success is sometimes measured by the competition. “A few years ago a young couple came in,” Proctor recalled recently, “and they knew way too much. They asked highly technical questions about many of our products. We gave them a detailed, computer generated design for a kitchen they said they wanted. A week later, one of our people met them again; they were the new sales clerks at a local Big Box store. We had educated them.”
“They even helped us with our advertising without knowing it. We have a series of very creative radio ads many of your readers have probably heard,” Proctor says. “We thank those mostly anonymous mega-stores for letting us help train them and teach them how the business is supposed to run. And we almost always get the work done for our customers at 10 to 15 percent less than they charge anyway.”
Another key to success in the relatively small communities of Chautauqua County, towns like Jamestown, according to Andy Proctor, is the staff. “Business here is personal. Everybody gets to know each other and that builds trust. We have a great staff. We couldn’t be more blessed. I’m as much part of the staff as the rest here. When homeowners can work with the boss they know they won’t need a dozen layers of bureaucracy to get something fixed. That’s the difference when a problem arises.”
“We have a short list of fine contractors too. We can recommend one if a homeowner asks. The town is full of good ones, and we don’t play favorites, but we do know the ones we’ve heard the best reports about,” Andy explains. “In a way, all of our installation work can be done by people your friends and neighbors recommend.”
We also know we are not the only good local company doing a good job at what we do,” Proctor adds. “If we can’t get something done—perhaps it a rush and we are very busy—I know one or two nearby people I am proud to refer a customer to when I can. They treat their customers fairly and do good work. In a way, a competitor can also be a good team member. We help each other when we can. It works that way in a closely knit community.”
“A message I would like to deliver to our town, Proctor says, is simply, ‘Give the local people a chance. The work they do and the living they earn stays right here. They are your neighbors and you can trust them to do it right.”
Andy Proctor invites Jamestown Gazette readers who would like to know more about Jamestown Kitchen and Bath, Kitchen and Bath Designs to visit 1085 E. Second Street in Jamestown, or call (716) 665-2299, or out of area, 1-877-888-2007.