Published: October 23, 2017
Locally-owned Rocky Mountain Shutters & Shades prides itself on both premium product and service. Recently, VP of Sales, Kristen Brown, sat down with us to talk about working in a family business, industry trends and the unconventional paths she and her dad took to get where they are today.
To start, you have three locations. Stapleton, Park Meadows and Cherry Creek North. Why do you have a presence in these three areas?
We picked Cherry Creek and Park Meadows because they're the hottest retail areas in Denver and that's where we want to align ourselves. Our Stapleton location is more of our warehouse/office space.
Rocky Mountain Shutters & Shades was founded by your father who has an interesting background for someone in the shutter and shade business.
True. My father is Alan Stremel and he’s a CPA by trade. He founded this company in 2003. Then, for a while he worked for a company called Colorel Blinds prior to opening our businesses. They were pretty big back in the day. The owner of Colorel actually gave him the idea to start this business because they both agreed that Denver had a really underserved market. We started off as just Rocky Mountain Shutters and grew from there.
Do you still produce all your own product?
We actually phased out producing our own product and switched to HunterDouglas in 2006. We saw a need for shutters and blinds and shades in homes. So when we added "Shades” to our name, we added HunterDouglas. Eventually, we decided it wasn't a good idea to have our own factory anymore and we switched to the retail model we currently have – operating as a HunterDouglas licensed dealer.
Why align so closely with HunterDouglas?
Well, they're the largest manufacturer of window coverings in the world. They sell through dealers. There are different levels of dealers and we're an “exclusive dealer” meaning we only sell their product, we don't sell any off-brands. We really believe in what they have to offer. They have a really nice, high-quality product that matches our business model and an emphasis on great service.
What is it like working with your father?
You know, we are pretty different in our attitudes towards everything, but that actually works well. He has a CPA background and I have a liberal arts degree in photography. That pretty much sums up everything right there.
So as a photography major in college, light must be of interest to you. So while you aren’t doing photography work right now, you’re still in the business of harnessing and manipulating light, aren’t you?
Yes. Light, color and design really interest me. I think that is why I did well in sales here. I love getting to go in to a new house every day and helping them see a vision that we bring to life. That part is exciting for me.
You mentioned going in to homes, do you do free in-home consultations?
We offer free in-home estimates, and customers can call to set one up. We actually bring the showroom to them. We have van-loads full of product that we bring directly to them. We can bring all the colors and textures directly to their home. Our job is really to pair design and function effectively, not just have something that looks good, but doesn't work with what our customer needs.
What kinds of questions are you asked frequently by people?
Privacy is usually the main thing people want to talk about, and the second would probably be light control. You know, in Colorado we have so much amazing sunlight, but that also brings heat and fading, so we deal with that a lot function-wise.
What are the latest trends in your industry?
People are trending towards modern more and more. Roller shades are our most popular, but a brand-new product—the banded shade—is also becoming popular. It's a nice modern shade that gives you a sheer option and a solid option. I would say a modernist, clean line is what everyone's looking for. We also incorporate that into our shutters, as well. They're still very popular, very classic. We can give them a modern look, or we can give them a classic look.
Imagine you get a call from someone saying, "We've moved" or "We hate the window treatments we have." The first questions you need to ask them would be what?
When they call into the showroom, we would ask them how many windows do they need covered? Do they know what product they might be interesting in? Then we kind of take it from there. Then when I am at the home, that's when we're really talking about design. So function-wise, I know exactly what you need, now design-wise, what's your dream and how can we pair those together with what I have to offer that is within your budget.
How does your company compare price-wise with others?
We don't promise to be the least expensive and I don't really want to be the least expensive on the market. HunterDouglas is a premium brand and with that we give a premium service.
So you'll see a difference from what a big box might install as opposed to what you all can offer?
My dad has always said that having a high standard for our own employed installers who are HunterDouglas certified and trained is important to providing trustworthy service. That truly sets us apart.
In the next ten years, do you see anything changing for the company? Do you plan to grow or add new locations?
You know, we’re pretty happy to be in the top two Colorado retail locations and this is where we want to stay.
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