Timing is Everything for Mifflinburg BusinessNov 19, 2014 01:58PM ● By Lisa Leighton
by Lisa Z. Leighton
When Jeff Yount purchased Cedar Green Center, Mifflinburg, in July 1988, he had a vision – he wanted to be a one-stop shop for home design and decorating needs and offer unparalleled customer service and professional installation.
Energy and Passion
Yount says that a core part of his business has always been in-home custom renovation, but it would take 25 years for his vision to come to full fruition. Today his 25,000-square-foot showroom includes three separate but physically-connected businesses: The Decorating Center; DC Coffee & Tea Co.; and Country Traditions at D.C.
Beyond choosing a business direction, hiring quality employees is always a challenge. Over the years, Yount expanded his staff to include 20 individuals who, he says, care deeply about the business. So important is the hiring process that no one – not even Yount—can hire without the approval of another employee.
“As a business owner, you must bring energy and passion to the business every day,” he says of the transition from one business to three. “Our approach has been to work with each customer to develop their style and meet and exceed their needs.”
Where It All Began
The business started as The Decorating Center, a paint and wallpaper business, and in a short time grew to include flooring and window treatments. Within a year of opening, Yount was approached by Yorktowne Cabinetry to service as its showroom and he seized the opportunity. That’s a recurring theme with Yount.
The idea for a coffee shop came next, in 2003. Yount wanted to offer his customers hospitality on-site, but could sense that some people were leery about accepting complimentary food and beverages. Fast-forward 10 years and DC Coffee & Tea Co. now serves a full breakfast and lunch, including a full-scale deli and homemade soups.
The most recent addition to the business, Country Traditions—which specializes in handcrafted and American-made furniture and décor—came to life in October 2013 when American Heritage Crafters in Milton closed its doors. Yount contacted then-manager Christine Rantz about relocating and renaming the business, a staple of which was Irvin’s Country Tinware and Lighting. Country Traditions is one of only a handful of Irvin’s “premier dealers,” and 80 percent of the products it sells are made in America.
“One of the most rewarding parts of my job is helping a customer discover their own style,” said Christine Rantz, Country Traditions manager. “We encourage customers to bring in a picture of their room…or the bowl they are trying to fill.”
Rural Location a Blessing, Not a Curse
While some would see Mifflinburg’s rural location as a drawback, Yount says that his business has become a destination and draws people from a 50-mile radius, and even as far as Rochester and Buffalo, New York.
Rantz says that non-traditional forms of advertising such as Facebook have been surprisingly helpful. She cites a recent e-coupon that was redeemed by more than 50 customers in a given month. She also utilizes e-mail as a communication tool, as well as traditional print, radio, billboard and direct-mail advertising.
Events also draw people to the businesses. Three major events each year pull in local vendors and give people a reason to come in and explore for an afternoon.
Yount says that timing
is everything when making changes to or expanding a business. He also tries to
learn from what the big box stores are doing right and apply those lessons to
his own business.
“It’s all about systemization…getting systems in place for consistency and uniformity,” he stressed.
For Yount, that includes everything from hiring knowledgeable and friendly employees and installers, to the warm welcome that every guest receives when they walk in the door.
It also means “loving the customer and always looking out for their best interests.” Customer testimonials and referrals have helped build Yount’s business and he doesn’t take any of it for granted.
Lisa Z. Leighton is a marketing professional and freelance writer living in Columbia County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.