Building The Store: Thank Craigslist for Some Finishing Touches

Amber Gustafson stress tests her $20,000 budget.

BY EILEEN MCCLELLAND

Published in the March 2012 issue

Aamber Gustafson, owner of Amber’s Designs in Katy, TX, decided in July 2011 that she needed more space in her store, which she had already expanded twice before in the same location. Somewhat impulsively, she negotiated with her landlord, drew up the plans herself, and before she knew it — almost — her contractor was knocking down walls. She closed the store for a week. The next two weeks, the staff worked around the construction. The goal was to double her space, topping out at 2,100 square feet.

PART 2 of 4

GROWING PAINS
Over 10 years, Gustafson’s store has eaten up its neighboring space in the first floor of a bank and office building as other tenants moved out. The current expansion will move the kitchen, bookkeeper, shipping and wrapping areas and add space for jewelers, including a new hire, who will now be seen through windows from the showroom. “I learned jewelry making in a mall, in the window, and that is what attracted me to that store. I was curious, just as I know my customers are,” Gustafson explained.

Relocating walls took about a week longer than expected, — structural changes were complete in September — but decorating was a months-long process — even before Gustafson was ready for the final step — buying and installing new cases. “I still need to find new cases and I am not going to rush so fast into that because all this is expensive to do,” she said.

Gustafson is paying for all of the remodeling herself, and — due to her negotiating skills — her  landlord has agreed to hold off the rent increase for eight months so she has time to recoup her expenses.

Her original budget of $20,000 will cover the structural changes but at this point, she doesn’t believe it will cover the cases, even if they are recycled. By November, she had begun contemplating taking out a bank loan, something she has never done in the history of her business.

THE SHOPPING LIST
Gustafson launched the expansion with the frugality that has been a hallmark of her business since it opened. The only brand new items in the refurbished store are the Home Depot cabinets in the kitchen/lunchroom.

Nearly everything in her store — showroom as well as shop — has been recycled. The paint in one part of the store was free — left over from another job her contractor had done. She has salvaged furniture from scratch-and-dent warehouses and shopped for other items on Craigslist. She shops at the Dollar Store for Valentine’s Day props for her cases.

  • The tile in her showroom had been left by a flooring business that had occupied part of the firstfloor space. She was able to match it and continue it throughout the expanded showroom floor for a seamless, elegant look.
  • The centerpiece of the new checkout counter is a dark wood headboard she discovered at a Rooms To Go scratch-and-dent warehouse. It was fashioned into a counter and topped with granite. The matching dresser for the bedroom set is now a cabinet behind the counter, topped with matching granite. The granite was one of the bigger single expenses in the store upgrade at $850.
  • Gustafson found an elegant, carved wood desk on Craigslist for $300 that is the focal point of her diamond room. She also found a mismatched dining room set at Rooms To Go — including four chairs, each in a different jewel tone — and furnished her office and diamond room with the chairs. She used the pedestal part of the glass table as a plant stand in front of the entry and took the glass top home. She paid $344 for the whole set. She has equipped the room with gold testers and a microscope and uses it for appraisals. “It has everything I need and it’s more private,” she says.

(NEXT MONTH: Finding the Cases) 


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