Budget Blinds brings in-home consulting to Silver Spring
Budget Blinds, an in-home window covering consultancy and installation service, will be bringing its wares to the Silver Spring, Maryland and metro D.C. area. The company is expanding its services in partnership with A Few Cool Hardware Stores, a group of Ace dealers in Washington D.C.
Budget Blinds brings its showroom to its customers, allowing them to shop for selections within their own homes. After finding a good match for the customer’s existing decor, Budget Blinds consultants perform measurements, order the necessary products, and professionally install them in the customer’s home.
"Our decision to partner with Budget Blinds of Silver Spring started with customer demands for an affordable blind solution," said Courtney Smith, marketing manager for A Few Cool Hardware Stores, in an email. "We know our customers take pride in their homes and wanted to offer a service that catered to their needs for personal design without breaking the bank on specialty blinds."
The five local Ace locations will feature an in-store Budget Blinds component that will offer customers consultation information, advice and a free design guide.
Made in D.C. expects ‘shop local’ momentum
Ace dealer A Few Cool Hardware Stores is gearing up for the second season of its Made in D.C. program with high expectations for incremental success. According to store owner Gina Schaefer, the "shop local" ethic was well-received before, and she expects and encourages copycats to keep the momentum rolling.
Having had the opportunity to tweak the program after its initial bounty of 12 submissions, Schaefer said she expects a much more substantial turnout when the program launches again on Aug. 1. On a larger, national scale, her primary hope is that programs like this one will help the "make local, buy local" effort continue to pick up steam.
"Other retailers should steal the idea," she said. Generally speaking, "anyone who’s interested in doing something local should try to implement it."
Schaefer, who has strong ties to Made in D.C. partner Think Local First D.C., said that last season’s good feedback was mostly from the media, but consumers demonstrated a strong interest as well. Already, announcements about the program have received thousands of Facebook impressions, and a strong community spirit in Maryland (where the program is expanding to this summer) promises to draw even greater enthusiasm.
Schaefer’s long-term vision? That eventually, the program will move beyond small craftsmen and encourage local manufacturers to provide substitutes for the products that are typically imported by hardware stores across the nation.
Perhaps a more important question to ask: whether programs like Schaefer’s will actually drive the local economy. HCN’s Feb. 2013 Made in the USA survey asked industry professionals whether their customers were willing to pay more for products that were made in the U.S. Out of 969 responses, a total of 41.4% "agreed" (29.8%) or "strongly agreed" (11.6%). The majority of respondents (35.3%) answered "neutral." That’s a weak turnout when you consider that a Boston Consulting Group survey found that 80% of consumers say they would pay more for a local product.
To that end, Schaefer said it was a relatively mixed bag last season.
"The people who see it and like the idea – they love it and they buy it," she said. "But it’s a mixture of both."
Overall, the program wasn’t (or isn’t yet) a particularly large source of profit for A Few Cool Hardware Stores, but participants received a nice sum for their efforts, as well as a boost in brand recognition.
Barring a nation-wide takeover, Schaefer hopes that the program’s second run will bring the industry just a small step closer to having robust local options for mainstay products. In the meantime, she encourages interested parties to apply.
Made in D.C. gears up for second wave of local stewardship
On the heels of its successful first season, A Few Cool Hardware Stores will be launching the second installment of its Made in D.C. program, which is expanding to the co-op’s four Maryland locations as a separate program called Made in Maryland.
The Ace Hardware dealer initially developed the program in response to demand for locally sourced products. In partnership with Think Local First D.C., owners Marc Friedman and Gina Schaefer beta launched the program in April 2013 to help support the local economy and encourage creative entrepreneurship in the D.C. area.
"The Made in D.C. program was so well-received in Washington D.C. that we wanted to expand it to our Maryland stores," said Schaefer. "We love the idea of sourcing products locally, and we know our customers do, too. It is our responsibility as a local business to take action to provide those opportunities for the vendors and promote economic growth in their communities."
Made in D.C.’s second season will start on Aug. 1 and will take place at the 9 AFCHS locations in D.C. and Maryland. Each store will have a dedicated section showcasing handmade products by a local manufacturer.
Vendors interested in participating in the program must reside in the D.C. or Maryland area and must submit their applications by July 5.