“When you go to LA or Seattle, most of the furniture stores are contemporary. Then, when you come further inland, the stores become more traditional,” said Concept : : Home’s owner, Heather Hanley. “For those people who are relocating inland but still want a more contemporary look, and not the typical furniture store version of contemporary, they used to have to travel to larger, urban cities. We are trying to be the source of contemporary furniture for the people living in Spokane so they no longer have to travel to Seattle.”
When Heather opened Concept : : Home in 2008, she was not new to the retail business—her family has been working in retail since the 1950s when they opened a television store that eventually started selling home furnishings. Over the years, this business evolved from Acme TV to The Tin Roof, and the product lines shifted. Ten years ago, Heather moved back from California and became the owner of the family business.
Located in a downtown building that Heather owns, Concept : : Home, which occupies 5,000 square feet of the bottom floor, was a completely new business venture, “My father and I wanted to buy a downtown building—I have had the idea since I moved back from California in 2000,” she said. “One day a copy of the MLS book popped into my lap, and there was a great building that was perfect for a condo conversion. We bought the building with the intent of putting a new store on the bottom floor and converting the upper two floors into lofts—and I would live in one of the lofts.”
The idea for Concept : : Home was then born shortly after Heather participated in furnishing a very contemporary home that was showcased on the Street of Dreams. While The Tin Roof offered a few contemporary and transitional pieces, Heather saw that there was a great need and market in the Spokane area for a contemporary boutique store. “There really aren’t any other contemporary stores in town,” she said. “Even half of our best selling pieces at The Tin Roof are fairly contemporary pieces.”
Along with having a unique product line for the Spokane area, Heather has created unique opportunities for potential customers to shop. After attending an educational session by Mary Liz Curtin, who owns a home furnishings store called Leon & Lulu in Michigan, Heather decided to open Concept : : Home up to local businesses, nonprofits and customers to host parties. “It is sort of like opening up your living room for people to have a party, but instead we have 10 living rooms,” Heather said. “We have had birthday parties, meetings and gatherings in the space. For most events, we will provide the space and the group provides the party. If the event is for a nonprofit and a purchase is made during it, a portion of the sale goes to that nonprofit—just like Leon & Lulu. We do about two events a month as well as participate in our downtown First Fridays. We always have a great turnout for that since we are amongst all of these art galleries and art displays really well in our showroom.”
Another unique way Heather shows Concept : : Home’s product is by creating room settings for local functions. One charity recently approached Heather and asked her to set up a hip, LA-type club atmosphere in the area where they were hosting a cocktail reception. Heather and her team created this great lounge area and were able to get their furniture, and name, in front of possible customers.
Outside of hosting events, Heather has found unique ways to connect with her customers. She recently tried a deal with the company Groupon, and while she didn’t sell many Groupons, it did create buzz about the business. Heather has also found Facebook to be an effective way of connecting with her customers. “I am a big fan of Facebook. I think it is a great way to interact with your customers and clientele without being obnoxious about it. They choose whether or not they are going to read your posts. It is a way for them to be able to connect with you without having to get an email every day like Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn do,” Heather added.
As for the future, Heather feels they have discovered the type of contemporary furniture the people of Spokane will buy, so her goal is to focus on marketing and gaining more business. She has found that one of her largest competitors is the Internet—even though the quality of products being sold on these sites is much less than what Concept : : Home sells. Heather eventually would consider adding an ecommerce portion to the business but wants to commit to doing one thing at a time in order to create the best possible product.
With two successful businesses, and a downtown loft building, under her belt, there is nothing stopping Heather and the continued success of Concept : : Home and The Tin Roof.