There’s no doubt about it. Bob Simonoff is a salesman.
But before he invested in an interior floor and countertop business, he had to sell himself on it first.
“I’d been in newspaper circulation for several years and I could just feel that things were changing in the industry and it was time for me to get out,” he said. “So, I told myself I wanted to find a business that I could work in until I retired.”
He worked through a national franchise search firm and was pointed in the direction of Nationwide Floor and Window Coverings. While he knew there was “nothing sexy about floor coverings,” in 2003, he bought the local franchise and started his business in Chico.
The business became West Shores Interiors in 2008 when the parent company went out of business.
Today the store at 3273 Chico Way NW in Bremerton is going strong.
“We’re up 80 percent (in sales) this year from last,” he said. “We’re not quite where we were before the recession, but we’re getting there.”
Simonoff said it’s their customer service that has kept them in business through the recession.
“The competitor up the road is gone and the competitor in Poulsbo is gone,” he said. “But we’re still here.”
It was along about February of 2008 when Simonoff began to notice a drop in business. Being a smart businessman, he tightened up his expenditures and eventually had to lay off one part-time person.
Throughout 2008 until just recently, he kept most of his business with rental property management companies which he calls “our bread and butter.” But he saw residential customers stop spending on their own homes.
If anything, they were buying less expensive products, or putting off home improvements entirely, he said.
“But consumers are coming back and they’re doing those projects that they’ve been sitting on for years,” he said.
They’re putting in new carpeting and floor treatments, and among the most popular are the new nylon carpets that have flecks in them as did the older Berber carpeting.
“It hides the dirt better,” he said.
And many homeowners are opting for LVTs, luxury vinyl tiles, that come in wood and stone looks. The company offers quality lines of carpet, carpet tiles, American hardwoods, exotic hardwoods, ceramic/porcelain tile, natural stones including slate, granite, marble, Marmoleum vinyl, other brands of luxury vinyl tiles, wood laminate flooring, plastic laminate counter tops, and window coverings including blinds, shades and shutters.
Throughout the economic downturn, Simonoff kept to his goal – good customer service.
“We always return every call and we show up when we say we will,” he said. “That’s 50 percent of the game.”
The company does in-home consultations and will bring samples to the customer. The store is 1,500 square feet of carpet and flooring samples that number in the thousands.
“It can get overwhelming to the customer,” he said. “There is so much to choose from.”
That’s where being a professional in the business helps. He knows how to read a customer and offers suggestions that will meet their needs.
And he offers green products for those customers who are environmentally aware.
“Two percent of all the landfill waste is carpet,” he said. “We offer special carpets that can be recycled.”
There are some products, however, that he won’t recommend to customers.
“The bamboo floors – they show every mark,” he said. “I’ll only recommend them to people who never wear shoes inside their homes.”
When he’s not working, Simonoff likes to ride his Harley motorcycle. He and his wife, Laurie, who keeps the books for the business, spent last weekend riding on Whidbey Island.
Simonoff grew up and has family in Los Angeles. While in the newspaper industry, he lived in Oklahoma, Idaho, and Pennsylvania. But he ended up back on the West Coast when he became the circulation manager for papers in Bremerton and Olympia. He has a daughter, 29, and a son, 25.
“I rode (Harleys) when I was young,” he said. “But once I had kids, that stopped. After the kids were gone, I made a deal with my wife that I could go back to riding if I bought more life insurance.”
Simonoff knows that his competition these days are the “big, box stores.”
“Our prices are competitive,” he said. “And we give six times the customer service.”
He can tell stories of customers who have come to him when items they bought at the box stores didn’t quite work out.
“They don’t sell them the transition strip that goes between the carpet and the tile,” he said. “And then the customer comes to us thinking that they didn’t get enough of whatever they’re putting down.”
Simonoff estimates that he’s probably worked with at least 1,500 customers in the past 10 years.
“I ride around saying, ‘I’ve been in that house and that house,’ “ he said. “In some neighborhoods, I’ve done most every house on the block. That’s how I get business, by word-of-mouth. A neighbor tells a neighbor who tells somebody else.”
And that is why good customer service is so important, he said.
Simonoff has one full-time employee who is the operations manager and does most of the estimates and bids.
He’s considering moving his store to a larger location, possibly somewhere in a more convenient commercial location. But he wants to see steady economic growth for a couple more quarters before deciding.
“We were looking at expanding before the recession but decided to wait,” he said. “I’m glad we did. Once I know the recession is behind us, we’ll think about more square footage.”
To find out more, go to www.WestShoresInteriors.com, or phone 360-377-7727.