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Destination showrooms are an experience unto themselves, and Waterhouse Bath and Kitchen Studio, located in downtown Perrysburg, Ohio, delivers on the promise of an ultimate customer experience.
Originally opened as a Kohler Bath House in 1976 by its parent company, Maumee Supply, the studio was the first plumbing fixture showroom of its kind in the region and set the stage as a trusted partner for its contractor and residential customers. To stay on the cutting edge of style and trends, and to continue as a destination experience, the showroom went through a reimagination in 2006 and changed its name to Waterhouse Bath and Kitchen Studio.
With a mission to be the premier provider of superior bath and kitchen fixtures in the region, Waterhouse strives to deliver cutting-edge style, innovative design, and unmatched expertise. We wanted to hear more about the studio, its mission and how Waterhouse enhances its customers’ homes and lifestyles — and how it continues to do so while driving customer engagement and satisfaction. We reached out to Showroom Manager Amy Siders to learn more.
Ruth Mitchell: Hi Amy! Describe the concept for the studio, its customer-based focus and studio offering.
Amy Siders: Waterhouse is the most amazing place! We wanted to create an experience for our customers, so when you walk through the doors, you immediately know you have entered somewhere special.
Our showroom is about 8,000 square feet and is designed to be open and airy — a welcoming space. Customers meander through more than 20 full bathroom vignettes — all life-styled with different tile, paint, wallpaper, and flooring treatments. We also highlight lighting fixtures and accessories. Customers get to play with 40 working showerheads and can test out more than 40 working kitchen faucets along the way.
We’re currently displaying thousands of items in the Waterhouse showroom, but you would never know it because it doesn’t seem crowded or forced in any way. We’re featuring more than 40 different vendors, everything from larger corporations such as Kohler, Moen, Delta and Brizo, to smaller boutique brands such as Watermark, Graff, Native Trails, Blanco, Laufen, Franz Viegener, Robern and Electric Mirror. And we have access to many more. We encourage customers to climb into tubs, open and close shower doors, vanity drawers, turn lights on and off. It’s a very interactive experience from start to finish.
RM: When one thinks of a destination showroom experience, it’s typically showcasing different lifestyle wants and needs — taking care of body, mind and soul. Describe what the customer base in your area is trending toward, and how do you deliver on their “In my mind’s eye, I’m picturing … .”
AS: We have a diverse mix of clients come through our doors. Northwest Ohio tends to skew a bit older in demographic, but no matter what our clients’ ages, genders or backgrounds, our tactics are the same. We ask questions. And then we let them talk. To understand our customers is to know who they spend their days and nights with, where they eat, what they do in their spare time (and how much spare time they have) and how they take care of themselves — a showroom like ours caters to an entire lifestyle and not just to a specific demographic.
As far as plumbing trends go, Northwest Ohio is fairly traditional across all demographics, but we do have our “trendy” moments Black matte and oil-rubbed bronze fixtures are still all the rage, along with a movement away from large, jetted tubs with decks toward simpler, elegant freestanding tubs. There is a big interest in unique, classic products with a story — Franz Viegener faucets hail from Argentina and are made in a factory owned and run by 160 Viegener cousins and siblings. Talk about a family-run business!
Graff is out of Milwaukee and began as the No. 1 chrome-plating producer for Harley-Davidson. Now they have a faucet line called Harley that mimics the look of hubcaps and motorcycle handlebars. Brizo has a new partnership with the Frank Lloyd Wright Association and that faucet collection is so beautiful! There’s definitely something for everyone!
RM: Customer engagement and experience are what makes any business stand out. As we had to pivot due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forming connections and creating experiences did as well. How does the studio provide and excel at customer engagement, which ultimately forms long-standing relationships?
AS: Communicate. Then communicate some more. And repeat …
Our clients need to know what’s happening. What’s new in the showroom? Where are their fixtures? Is that sink ever going to come in? All these questions can be dealt with proactively with a simple phone call or e-mail. No client (or potential client) should ever have to go on a fishing expedition for information. Don’t make the client do your job for you.
Be truthful. Sometimes things go wrong. Mistakes are made. Delays happen. Don’t avoid giving bad (or disappointing) news because it seems uncomfortable. Your clients need to trust you. If that is lost, it’s nearly impossible to get back.
It sounds so trite but, for goodness sakes, just say thank-you. Say it often and loudly. Write thank-you notes. Thank your clients for the sale. Thank them for their loyalty. You know what you get in return? Their version of “You’re welcome” will come in the form of referrals to their friends and family and in repeat business.
Have fun! What’s fun about a plumbing showroom? Everything! We’ve had two major events in the five months that I’ve been with Waterhouse. The first was our Bubble Bash in September and the second was our World Toilet Day celebration in November and December. We’ll talk about that a bit later.
That Bubble Bash was a big hit! Locally sourced food and beer, an exceptional DJ spinning all night, gorgeous flowers and decor paired with our dazzling array of fixtures was the perfect pairing. We invited our commercial and residential clients, builders, contractors, interior designers, real estate agents, our partners through the Toledo Home Builders Association and Chambers of Commerce, along with our family and friends.
I’m planning at least three big events each year with smaller, monthly events to celebrate lesser-known retail holidays like Black Matte Friday (I think I just invented that!), Small Business Saturday, Giving Tuesday, Shower with a Friend Day, National Bubble Bath Day -— anything that can create buzz and garner new business for us. I want Waterhouse to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues at all times.
RM: How has Waterhouse managed supply chain shortages, and how do you guide customers through the process?
AS: Even if you think your customers have no idea what a supply chain is, if you listen closely enough, you’ll learn that people understand and talk about things like logistics, pricing fluctuations and how products are made more than they ever did before. How a product effects a person’s life is hugely important. Customers expect to know when and how their products are sourced, how they will arrive, the upfront and backend costs, and what happens if there are delays, discontinuations, or cancellations.
I recently read that 61 percent of millennial shoppers will switch brands because of some issue directly related to the supply chain — whether it’s quality, availability, how the company treats its workers or the product’s impact on the environment. Customers may not use the same terminology that we do as industry insiders, but they’re very much aware of what is happening. The best thing we can do is to communicate. It’s not so much that we’re masters of managing supply chain shortages as being experts at managing customer expectations.
RM: The customer experience defines the company — and it all starts and ends with team members. We have heard of creative methods to showcase career opportunities within a showroom. How does the studio recruit talent, and how does it retain and foster their growth?
AS: Waterhouse and our parent company, Maumee Supply, both have incredibly low turnover. That’s due in large part to being a part of a family-owned and -run organization. We have a lot to offer potential employees in the way of a work/life balance, but we don’t stop there — we offer a beautiful and safe working environment, manageable schedules, excellent benefits and above-average pay for our industry.
We’re small enough to be able to make decisions quickly. If an employee finds a safety issue or devises a better way to do something, it doesn’t take long to get a new idea in front of a decision-maker. I want my sales team to take great pride and ownership in their business — that’s the only way they’re going to grow and thrive here.
RM: The studio has a fun social media presence to drive company awareness but also community engagement and raise awareness for causes around the globe. Tell us the unique way it celebrated World Toilet Day.
AS: We had our Bubble Bash in September and we celebrated October’s National Kitchen and Bath Month by focusing on 31 iconic bathroom and kitchens from movies and TV shows (think Audrey Hepburn’s clawfoot bathtub settee in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the kitchen from “Friends.”) I was at a loss for a November event until I found World Toilet Day in a Google search. I hadn’t ever heard of it and I’m guessing that you and most of your readers haven’t either.
It was started 19 years ago by the United Nations to bring awareness to the fact that 4.6 billion people worldwide don’t have access to a safe, sanitary toilet. I knew that Waterhouse had to do something. But what? My mind works in weird ways sometimes and I decided that painted toilets were the way to go. I only had six weeks to pull this off, so I had to work fast! Kohler generously donated five Cimmaron two-piece toilets and lids.
I contacted the Toledo Arts Commission, gallery owners and every artist that I knew. I ended up with the most amazing group of young artists: two entries from Fine Arts students at the University of Toledo, a junior from Ottawa Hills High School and two teams made up of more than 100 Introduction to Art students from Perrysburg High School. The artists had two weeks to work, with the only rule being that the toilet needed to remain intact.
Their creations completely blew us away! Galaxies and aliens, celestial scenes, stark modern art and fairy forests covered every inch of these commodes. We opened the contest up to a community in-showroom and online vote. The local press jumped all over this — we had newspaper coverage, blog posts, TV spots, hundreds of shares on Facebook and our showroom traffic counts jumped.
We announced Team One from Perrysburg High School as the grand prize winner on World Toilet Day (Nov. 19) on Facebook Live and our online silent auction began the next day. We raised more than $500 for water.org. We are thankful for the partnerships that we can build within our local schools and the community – they are priceless! We are already planning next year’s World Toilet Art Center contest and celebration – and it’s going to be bigger and better. I feel lucky to work for a very forward-thinking company that is in an incredibly generous, empathetic, and art-friendly community and I can’t wait to do this again in 2022!
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