The sixteen home furnishings related stores and restaurant help to build traffic for the mall's anchor Stoney Creek Furniture
All Stores can be entered from the 1000-car parking lot. Phase one of the project includes a mix of 16 home furnishings related stores and a restaurant.
From the time he was 17, Dennis Novosel has been a man of action. But Fortune also endowed him with the capacity to conceptualize on a grand scale. Witness his latest dream come true, the Decor Centre.
It's absolutely unlike any other home furnishings mall in Canada, and since the October 1st Phase One opening, people have been coming from miles around to ooh, aah and buy by the carload. State-of-the-art awesome, the 116,000 square feet Centre is positioned on a 15 acre site directly across from Novosel's Stoney Creek Furniture, the "anchor" store of this extraordinary mall.
Drawing power is the entire Niagara Region, Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, St. Catharines, Mississauga and Toronto, Canada's largest city. The Decor Centre and Stoney Creek Furniture are visible from the Queen Elizabeth Way, accessible from two exits, Fruitland Road and Fifty Road. The basic demographic is 25 to 54, with household incomes over $75,000.
Architecturally indisputably twenty-first century, the Center's colour mixes and intimate flow make it eminently customer friendly. As you would expect, all stores and the central restaurant can be entered from the 1000-car parking lot. The warm and cozy bonus is that traffic moves quite effortlessly from one end of the first Phase to its farthest reaches via interconnecting arches. Ceilings are wonderfully high and open, fenestration is ample and superbly positioned and, within each unit, customers are drawn from vignette to vignette, counter to counter. The mix consists of 16 home furnishings related stores and a restaurant.
Enter at Domaine, definitely a new direction in appliance stores by General Electric. When we arrived, a delectable fragrance wafted from the cooking demonstration in progress at the central open working kitchen. (Classes are scheduled here, too.) Now put your imagination to work. Everything is hooked up, ready to function. All the cooking tops, all the washers and dryers, vacuums, all the showers and tubs (including one with a built in waterfall feature!), barbecues, glowing gas fireplaces and yes, indeed, toilets that flush! (Well, it's good to know what kind of noise level you'll be exposed to in the middle of the night, don't you agree?) There's a miracle of an environmental chamber that creates its own inner climate with steam and rain, a comfortable seat placed so that multiple shower nozzles can massage any aching part of you. And there's loads of cookware, a design centre, an internet centre and a kids' corner where the younger generation can be kept occupied while parents explore.
If you can tear yourself away, walk through the arch to Hauser's, a store that quite logically offers, next to the barbecues, imaginative patio and casual dining furniture in iron, wicker and wood.
The next arch leads you to Private Spaces, in which you'll find what's described as boudoir furniture, eclectic beds and the lovely linens and mattresses to go with them, very attractive lighting, armoires and cabinets, many of them beautifully hand-painted. There is a complete designer service with an on-site workshop for draperies and custom covers, a wide choice of fabrics and unique wallpapers.
More mattresses than you've ever thought about at Simmon's Mattress Gallery next door, every size, thickness and degree of softness and/or hardness.
Another arch and you find yourself at Norwalk: The Furniture Idea, a specialist higher end upholstery store staffed by designers who are eager to visit your home and solve your interior decor problems. Norwalk is a franchise with over 200 stores in the U.S. and four other outlets in Canada. You'll see everything for the livingroom or den, dining, lighting and accent pieces.
At time of writing, intell-home, a retailer specializing in home alarms, home entertainment rooms and in creating Smart Homes where all electronic functions are automatically performed, were completing their own installation. Their sister company, intell-comm, are also putting the finishing touches on a large unit in Phase Two of the Centre. They will deal, as their name implies, in corporate intelligence.
Kalman Galleries is in dramatic contrast with a superb collection of antiques and antique reproductions, lighting, accessories and tableware.
A light and bright circular designer-style coffee house/restaurant, topped out with a huge four-sided clock and imaginatively named JAVA-FAVA, takes centre stage in the mall's design. Again, high open ceilings, raised seating areas and soft blue, green and taupe colorways provide a free and airy ambiance to shoppers. As you would expect, the menu will include a wide variety of specialty coffees, pastry and pasta stations, lots of reasonably priced healthy, rejuvenating food to enable the shopper to continue her/his quest.
Continuing down the mall, Canac Kitchens, specialize in gorgeous, to-die-for custom built kitchens, bathroom cabinets and fixtures, beautifully displayed.
Again, logic prevails as we move on to Kitchen and Home Surroundings, an area we defy you to leave without at least one useful purchase! The space is chock-a-block full of great accessories for the kitchen, certainly, but also for every corner of the home together with curios, clocks and other accent pieces.
The Leather Sofa Gallery occupies the next unit and the fragrance of the hides is compelling. The store specializes in handsome leather pieces from Mexico and the Philippines, as well as attractive accent furniture.
Just in case you're beginning to feel a bit on the tired side, the primary colors and large, fun murals through the arch at Baby World/Kid's Furniture Plus, perk up your spirits instantly. Kids are encouraged to play and interact while parents or grandparents shop. Selection covers the needs of infants through young juveniles, everything you can think of.
At the Sklar-Peppler Furniture Showcase, grownup needs are targeted by well-conceived room settings of traditional and transitional upholstered furniture, sofas, loveseats and chairs of all sorts. The atmosphere is relaxed and pleasant and coffee is offered by a friendly staffer. The unit's look is interestingly enhanced by large, circular space/visibility openings cut in dividing walls.
Bath and Bedtime is a linen buffs' superstore, featuring those wonderful, luscious fluffy duvets, shams, dust ruffles and all the other accouterments of the ultra luxurious bedtime and bath/spa lifestyles.
For years a favorite with "the man in the house", reclining chairs and sofas/loveseats with reclining features, have taken on a brand new life, a somewhat sleeker silhouette and a feminine following. Lane Motion Gallery has created an up market ambiance at the Centre to show its upholstered and leather pieces, both motion and stationary.
Then Ashley Homestore's huge showroom area answers the needs of shoppers in the medium to lower price point in fully accessorized, very attractive room settings. A franchise, U.S. based, this is the third Ashley Homestore in Canada. It's really a new look in starter furniture.
Phase Two, another 100,000 square feet, was almost at completion, and the dazzling Taj Rugs & Home was in the throes of its final thrust, hanging beautiful 12' x 15' rugs in the huge showroom. Also on display are interesting, exotic accessories and accent furniture. Taj plans to hold product information seminars for its own mall customers and others in concert with Stoney Creek Furniture.
Expressions in Wood (Canadian made solid wood furniture, dining, bedrooms and accent, in traditional and country styling), Desert Traders (importers of Indian rustic furniture and tablewares), Universal Slate (flooring and counter tops in slate and marble, later broadloom and wood flooring), Drury Lane (delightful inside/outside furniture and accessories, fountains, floral arrangements) and Arcon (both factory and showroom, manufacturer of picture frames) round out the exciting tenant list of the Center's Phase Two.
The Distribution Centre encompasses 47,000 square feet of the same structure, a cavernous area that runs behind the Phase Two shops. Here goods are inspected, touched-up, warehoused and distributed. Part of the space will also serve as the mall's clearance centre.
In another three acres between the service road and the highway, Dennis envisions Phase Three, another 40,000 to 45,000 square feet building to house lighting and electronics shops.
Phase Four will be a large addition to Stoney Creek Furniture and possibly 130,000 square feet of retail outlets.
We asked how all this activity across the road had impacted Stoney Creek Furniture's sales. "There has been a substantial increase in sales since the opening and a huge increase in profit. The Decor Centre brings a lot more people to Stoney Creek.
"There's a complementary, compatible family feeling among all the tenants and Stoney Creek personnel. In fact, there are many real family members working in our store and in the mall. My philosophy that Stoney Creek should be the best, easiest, nicest store to come to applies equally to the Decor Centre," said Dennis.
"Strategies have changed, the product mix has expanded as the years have passed. Certain things are right at certain stages of development, then you move up the learning curve. We have the challenges of systems, differences in technology. Home Shows were once a big part of our mix. They helped to build our reputation and visibility. Now we only do a couple a year.
"Education remains possibly the most vital element. We're training now on the newest NHFA (National Home Furnishings Association) video system, product knowledge, role-playing. Every year we send people to management training, sales training and customer service workshops in the U.S. The last one was in Las Vegas, part of the employee bonus system. I take 12 people with me each year to the NHFA Convention where there are training sessions in specialized groups."
Dennis still holds the Chairmanship of the NHFA Education Committee, as well now as the Chairmanship of the 2002 NHFA Convention at Orlando, Florida.
Stoney Creek's employee roster stands at 90. Dennis has always believed that "Commission sales in our industry is the worst possible way to remunerate people. We pay the best wages in the industry for a 36-hour week, salary plus a bonus based on a 10 point system only one of which is increased sales. Our people are secure in their jobs and we work as a team effort."
Dennis' right hand colleagues remain Jim Carruthers and Jim Fee, both now vice presidents and partners, and Judy Silverthorn, his creative and hardworking Sales Manager. Judy filled us in on Stoney Creek's events. "We close down the store completely the day before a sale and open at 8 a.m. the following day instead of our usual 10 a.m. People started lining up to get in at 5:30 a.m. before our last event and we arranged for a catering truck to come to the parking lot with coffee.
"Our favorite is the traditional February 29th fantasy sale, held every year whether it's a leap year or not! Everything on the floor is marked at 29 percent off. We use our customer lists, one of our most valuable assets, for direct mail to publicize this event, plus newspaper and radio.
"And this year is our 31st anniversary so, guess what? We offered 31 percent off every piece on the floor. Another very popular promotion this summer was our co-op with Tilley Endurables, our 'adventure in furniture and free fashions'. This also involved draws for a week for two in Tahiti and $1000 spending money – 'we'd like to offer you the world – but we'll start with Tahiti!'"
Dennis added, "Another successful co-op promotion is with the La Costa Restaurant. With a $750 minimum purchase we give the customer a $100 certificate to enjoy a gourmet dinner at La Costa. We pay 50 percent, and they tell me we gave away about 1800 meals last year."
Last May a numbered classic invitation card directed to Preferred Customers offered an opportunity to match numbers with over $50,000 of furniture and accessory items and, in October, a three day scratch and match event heralded a $100,000 giveaway.
Television is much too expensive they all agree, but they're heavily into talk radio with Stoney Creek's own well-known local spokespersons, who also appear on other stations on the store's behalf.
Community outreach is important to all Stoney Creek staff and they're involved in the sponsorship of "20 to 25 local sports clubs and teams". They also sponsor an African child through the Foster Parent's Plan, and the installation of a community well in Ethiopia.
Dennis believes that the Decor Centre is "the premium spot for people to shop in the country. We've put romance and fun into the shopping experience. It comes down to convenience. We're all so busy today and people want to drive up to the front door, know they'll find what they need easily and in a very pleasant environment."
If you plan to come to the Toronto International Home Furnishings Market, January 13-16, 2001, and would like to meet Dennis here on home turf, we can arrange it for you. The annual national Trillium Furniture Awards, a competition based on marketability and design now in its 28th year, holds its "Oscar" banquet the night before Market's opening day, this year Friday, January 12. It's an exciting event. Entries are at their peak for 2001, and competitors don't know the winners in the various categories until the envelope is opened. This year, Dennis is Master of Ceremonies. You can bet he'll have a lot of fun and so will everyone present. Don't worry about the weather. Dennis will arrange for the blizzards to commence after you're all safely back home!