One way to build your business is to follow local shopping trends and take advantage of high retail growth areas. Since 1951 House 'n Garden has taken up occupancy in three different retail neighborhoods, each thriving in its day, and now lays claim to being Tucson's oldest patio furniture store.
When Harlan Davis bought the store 60 years ago, it was at East Speedway and North Tucson Boulevard and was called The Garden Furniture Company. Very few competitors existed in those days and the store's primary products were redwood tables and benches and swing sets, said daughter Joanne Tudor, who now owns the business with her husband, Tom Tudor.
After a lightning-caused fire burned the store to the ground in 1959, Davis rebuilt on the same site. Six years later he moved to East Broadway and Columbus Boulevard because of its prime spot in a busy corridor.
"That location was between Park Mall and El Con. There was a lot of traffic," said Joanne. "When Tucson Mall came into existence and became the mall in Tucson, we bought the property where we are now (on the south side of Wetmore Road). We bought it nine years before we built on it," opening in 1996.
Tudor worked for her father during high school and then attended Northern Arizona University to study interior design. There she met Tom who was studying for a career in the restaurant industry. By 1978 both were in Tucson working for Davis. Six years ago he retired and the couple took over the business.
Patio products have changed dramatically from the wrought iron, vinyl-strap and mesh furniture popular for so many years to today's new designs and materials that more closely resemble indoor furniture. "We sell more deep seating-sofas and swivel chairs, high coffee tables. And the large fabric choices are a huge part of today's furniture that makes it so exciting and has completely changed the look," Joanne said.
She and her husband keep the House 'n Garden name out in the public through a variety of vehicles. They've provided furniture and décor for model homes and tours such as Street of Dreams and Arizona Opera League Home Tour. "It's a lot of exposure. I don't know if we get our investment back; probably in the long run we do," Joanne noted. She donates items for charity auctions, serves on the board of directors for Silver and Turquoise Ball, which benefits San Xavier Mission, and Tom Tudor is a member of the VIP Breakfast Club.
Commercial clients include Arizona Inn, a local landscape company and several apartment complexes. "The benefit of working with us," she said, "is we can service them versus if they buy from out of town, they're on their own."
Traditional marketing, including print and broadcast advertising, has been supplemented in recent years with a website, the use of e-blasts and a Facebook account. The website is currently being renovated to give customers direct access to the store's product information. Previously, they were directed to each vendor's site.
Over the years, several strategies have set House 'n Garden apart from other patio furniture stores, Joanne believes. These include an emphasis on high quality, American-made products; offering in-house design services, repair work and delivery; and being hands-on owners.
Recent adjustments Tudor has made in response to the economy have been in price points. She's seen demand for higher-end lines slow down. Mid-priced furniture, however, is still selling well, so she continues to add products in that category. While some modifications may be necessary at times, she's learned the importance of sticking to one's core values, such as not compromising on quality. "Our whole format is based on quality being number one."
And never forget those people walking through the door. "Our main marketing tool is happy customers who refer people to us," Joanne stressed. "It's the good old-fashioned marketing technique."