Quest for success - Keeping busy

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In 2004, Levy opened a shop in Garnerville that catered to the residential market. His plan from the beginning was to keep the operation small. Levy rents 3,800-sq.-ft. on the first floor of a 150-year-old dye factory, which includes the shop, showroom and office.

“I learned, from working in the gallery, that I’d have more luck building what [homeowner’s] need,” says Levy. “Not fine art; but cabinetry. When I was in my father’s garage and my overhead was minimal, I could afford to make custom furniture. But this shop required an investment in machinery and a focus on cabinetmaking.

“I was really driven to create this type of business because of my interest in manufacturing. If I stayed in a smaller shop and made one-of-a-kind pieces, I would have been left wondering what it would have been like if I built a larger business. So now I feel like I’ve really fulfilled something that I had always desired.”

Levy says his biggest hurdle has been managing employees for the first time.

“Fortunately, I immediately found someone who had 10-plus years in cabinetmaking and could build a quality cabinet. Over the past several years, there have been a handful of people who have worked for the company, although it’s challenging to find capable and talented people.”

The shop currently has two full-time employees, including Levy’s father, Mike, who joined the company in 2006, and Kevin Gladon.

Keeping busy
As a result of the marketing skills he had previously acquired, Levy is able to maintain a healthy customer base with more than 50 percent of its revenue derived from referrals and repeat business. Currently, Levy has an eight-week backlog.

“We always have work — we’re very fortunate in that respect.”

Clients are mostly professionals and suburban homeowners who reside within a one-hour radius of the shop, with the majority of the work coming from Westchester County. Competition is tough, and while Levy has been in his share of bids, landing the job can be unpredictable. Everything depends on the client’s expectations.

“I target a high-end residential clientele. It has to be high end because of the type of service and end product that we offer. If you go for the higher-end market, those clients are the ones that understand that you get what you pay for.”

Levy says that, on average, his pricing falls between $1,200 to $2,500 a linear foot.

In the past, his secret to steady business was relentlessly targeting prospective clients by appearing at home shows, doing cold calls, mailing brochures and magazine advertising. But targeting a homeowner without breaking the bank can be tricky. The trick, he says, is to create a marketing campaign that has repeat visibility and consistency. But it’s an expensive and time-consuming approach.