A New Jersey cabinetmaker for the salon industry has developed a successful company by focusing on quality production and innovation.>
By Michaelle Bradford
Sometimes the path followed can 'make all the difference.' Such was the case for Walter Siegordner, founder of Salon Interiors, a cabinetmaker for the salon and spa industry as well as a supplier of retail fixtures. It turned out to be a successful journey.
The notion of being a cabinetmaker was the last thing in his mind, he says. Siegordner's direction in life, or so he thought, was to be an aerospace engineer. Although his father was a cabinetmaker and he worked with him as a child on installations and odds-and-ends, "I hated the idea of being a cabinetmaker," he says.
However, he had to pay for college. So Siegordner got a job as a draftsman for the salon furniture department of a company that also sold shampoos and a beauty line. He soon discovered what he says were terrible inefficiencies in the department's production. "It was rudimentary and stagnant in its ways and methodology," he says.
Siegordner worked for the company for six months and then decided that he could do it better and, "I've been doing it for 25 years," he says.
Siegordner started off as a distributor, buying goods from people in the industry, but he wasn't satisfied with the quality, he says. He soon decided to become a manufacturer, and eight years after going into business for himself he bought the assets of the company he initially worked for. "It was an interesting twist of fate."
Started in February 1979, Siegordner's company has always been called Salon Interiors. Located in Hackensack, NJ, it has evolved over the years from being a designer and distributor of salon furniture to designer, distributor and manufacturer. While most work continues to be for the beauty industry, Salon Interiors also evolved to include commercial work, such as offices and cafeterias.
"Every business has to grow and move forward - to increase sales dollar volume," Siegordner says. Seventy-five percent of Salon Interiors' business is salon work and 25 percent is commercial work. It can fluctuate, he adds, noting, "Commercial work is very good at filling in different gaps here and there, and we are now continuously busy. I don't mind turning down a commercial project, because it is not my core business. But I hate to turn away a salon, because that is my core business. It is where I started and where my reputation lies."
Sales for Salon Interiors grew 30 percent last year, Siegordner says, and he expects another 20 percent growth by the end of this year. The increases have mainly come in commercial and salon franchise work. For salon franchises, the learning curve for the production shop is less, Siegordner says, which saves time and labor costs.
Salon Interiors mostly serves the New Jersey, New York and Connecticut market, because it is easier to maintain quality control that way, Siegordner says. "This business is hands-on, hand-holding work with clients to find [their] likes and [their] dislikes. You can't do it over the phone. That's why we're only a tri-state company.
"There are always changes in the field. When you are local, you can always check up on the job and compensate - you can control your destiny as much as possible," he adds.
With that said, Siegordner also notes that the company just finished a job in the South Beach, Miami area for a client who had worked with Salon Interiors on its New Jersey salon. "They were willing to pay the extra premium it takes for us to do the preliminary visits [to the job site] and fly-outs," he says, "because they trusted us and believed in us, and they wanted what we do well. We [will] do salons out of the area, but we don't look for [them]."
Salon Interiors has 26 to 27 employees, including four people who design, an installation staff and office, delivery and shop personnel. The company occupies approximately 30,000 square feet, which includes a showroom, office and shop. Siegordner says that 17,000 square feet is "pure shop."
Since the salon industry is constantly evolving, it is necessary to accommodate the client as quickly as possible. Several months in rent may be tied up before the salon doors can open, Siegordner says. For this reason, time-frame, quality and design are essential and are discussed with the client in the preliminary stage.
Design Services a Strong Suit
The company also has an advantage in that it provides services and products beyond the fixtures. "One of our successes is that we listen very well," Siegordner says. "We are architects, and we are designers. When a client comes to us, we create the floor plans, the plumbing, electrical and lighting diagrams and the architectural seal to the drawings - we provide those features as an overall service to them."
Salon Interiors also works in conjunction with other architects on approximately 10 to 15 percent of its projects.
Some architects may not understand the nuances of how a salon actually works, Siegordner says, so Salon Interiors' collaboration with them becomes a give-and-take process.
"We are the experts when it comes to designing salons," he says. "We understand traffic flow, how a hairdresser moves a client through the salon and what space is required."
Siegordner believes that it is important for designers to think and work "out of the box." As a designer, you "find out what [the client's] wants and needs are, and you bring to reality a finished product. You are able to be creative and go over all the little nuances like, 'Do you want to accommodate this behind a door or do you want it in a drawer?'" The satisfaction level for both the client and designer increases in the process, he says.
Building a Strong Reputation
Ball-bearing Accuride slides are used on all of Salon Interiors' cabinet drawers.> The doors are mitered and the bottom of the drawer is glued, he says. "We use melamine board, and our cabinets are all screwed together and not just stapled." Also, customers are offered a wide selection of colors at no extra charge.
Salon Interiors handles approximately two to three projects a week, depending upon the caliber of the salon. For instance, if an order for a small salon (one to two chairs) comes in, the client buys more of the standardized items, Siegordner says. Most of these components are already pre-cut and assembled, and the client only has to select the color.
"For larger salons, an estimate is given based on what is in the mill. Delivery dates are guaranteed, and we put it in writing that we will pay $500 a day if we are late," Siegordner says. "We have everything forecast, and we know what's in the mill. We look at our schedule, and we know what's going in and out."
The only items that Salon Interiors subcontracts out are finishing, metal and stone work and raised panel doors. Otherwise the shop is equipped to handle all of its manufacturing needs in-house. Machines in the shop include: Espa+ÃÆÃâÃâÃÂ¦a beam saw, Altendorf sliding table saw, Delta table saw, Weeke point-to-point boring machine, Brandt edgebander, planer, joiner, shaper and line-boring machine.
Salon Interiors also does subcontract work for smaller cabinet shops to fully utilize its high-tech machinery, Siegordner says. "We will cut up and machine parts to help them move their projects along."
Some projects for Salon Interiors can be quite extensive. Currently, the company is working on a 30,000-square-foot salon in Fairfield, NJ. Siegordner says that it will be an all-encompassing salon and spa with 50 styling chairs, 24 hair coloring chairs, eight pedicure units, 15 manicure tables, a luncheon area, an in-house plastic surgeon and a pilates exercise room. Salon Interiors has been working on the preliminaries for the project for approximately six months, and the building is scheduled to break ground in the spring of 2005, Siegordner says.
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