Beautiful design, contemporary southwest products and a great partnership are a few things that come to mind when people think of Contents Interiors in Tucson, Ariz. Today, this full-service design center is owned by business partners Carol Bell and Tamara Scott-Anderson, who have found the recipe for success.
Contents first opened its doors in 1979, offering home furnishings to the town of Tucson. At that time, it was owned by Ken and Linda Smalley. Carol and Tamara first met while working for the store, as store manager and a designer respectively. Tamara eventually left Contents to work for a design center where she learned more about the construction side of design. In 2001, Carol was offered the opportunity to purchase Contents Interiors, contacted Tamara, and a beautiful partnership was formed.
“When Carol was offered the opportunity to purchase Contents, she wanted a business partner and she called me,” Tamara said. “We hadn’t spoken much over the six years that I had been gone, but we did run into each other once. I was ready for a change and she didn’t want to find a new job, so we said OK, and took a leap of faith. We are very lucky at how our partnership has worked out. We are joined at the hip sometimes but together we are the perfect person. We had a business consultant give us one of those personality tests to find out our strengths and weaknesses. When they printed out the graph, her strengths and weaknesses were the opposite of mine, and she was the left half of the graph and I was the right half. We are thankful ever day and both appreciate how well we work together, and how much we accomplish.”
Carol and Tamara’s goal for Contents today is to maintain their reputation of quality home furnishings and exemplary customer service, while adding their individual styles, personalities and passions. When Tamara came back on board as owner, she transitioned the business from just being a home furnishings store into a full service design firm, which included them getting a contractor’s license to be able to do non-structural construction work in their customers’ homes. Carol took over as buyer for the store and has created an eclectic product mix for their customers. Together, with their six trained interior designers, they use their skills and unique home furnishings to create beautiful rooms for their clients.
When customers walk into the contemporary-styled building located in the Fort Lowell Furniture District, they will see the two different styles that Contents focuses on: contemporary and southwestern. “To the left, we have some of our Southwestern, Old World products and when you look to the right, we have contemporary products,” Tamara said. “When we used to keep all of our contemporary items at the front door, people would peek their head in and think we only sold contemporary, so they would leave. Now we try to keep our soft contemporary and transitional up front, and then as you go towards the back of the store, you start seeing the more traditional, southwestern and Old World looks.”
“Carol and I were driving back from Phoenix sometime last year, and had an epiphany,” Tamara said. “We have always done the contemporary and the western—we can do cowboy style with the best of them. We had heard some people call our products ‘contemporary southwest’, so we started asking around about where people shop for contemporary southwest, and everyone said ‘We come to you!’ So we have now been trying to define contemporary southwest and show people that that’s our niche. We have done photo shoots of contemporary southwest and vignettes showing it, to really help people know that yes, Contents is the place to get the contemporary southwest look.”
Along with their unique contemporary southwest niche, customers of Contents keep coming back because of their exemplary customer service. Many employees give out their personal cell phone numbers and will come in on their day off to assist their client. The goal of Contents is to build long-lasting relationships with their customers. “I am sure every store tells you that their customer service is the best, but ours really is,” Carol said. “We have a professional staff of educated designers, and their goal is to build a relationship with the clients. As people come in through the door, they know that they are in a happy place because our staff enjoys working here. They enjoy their jobs and we hear from our customers all the time that our staff is so friendly, helpful, and they know what they are doing.”
Carol, Tamara and the Contents team are also very involved in their local and home furnishings community. They support numerous organizations such as Angel Charity, the Heart Association, Southern Arizona Aides Foundation and the Humane Society. Tamara is a member of ASID and is currently the public relations chairperson for the Arizona South Chapter. Carol is serving on the WHFA board, and Contents has been a longtime member of the Contemporary Design Group. Contents Interiors is also a member of the Sustainable Furniture Council, with a majority of their products coming from manufacturers who practice sustainable furniture creation.
Contents, like everyone else, suffered during the economic crash, but they are hopeful they will rebound and continue to grow. “Two years ago, when everything happened, it was our worst year ever,” said Carol. “Last year, we were up double digits from the year before. We plan to be up double digits again this year. We focus on that goal all the time and we will plan for it.”
“We have seen many stores go down on our street and within our community,” Tamara added. “We are determined to be the last good furniture store standing and that we will still be here and thriving.”
With Carol and Tamara’s passion for their business, employees and customers, there is no doubt they will quickly rebound and continue to flourish in the future.
By Melissa Dressler, Western Retailer Managing Editor