First place: Morris Black & Sons, Lehigh Valley, PA

by WOHe

First place: Morris Black & Sons, Lehigh Valley,
PA

Firm Serves Multiple Markets With One Level of Excellence


Some people believe in doing one thing only, and doing it well. At
Morris Black & Sons, though, diversification doesn’t mean a
diffusion of the firm’s strengths. Rather, the firm has created an
interlocking network of separate yet related divisions that
maximizes the firm’s skills, services and offerings. Each area
functions independently, yet collectively, they support each other,
resulting in a cohesive and exceptional whole.

The company is divided into three separate divisions which
operate as individual profit centers within the corporate
structure: Commercial Doors and Hardware, Fiberglass Insulation
Contracting and Kitchens and Baths Division. The firm serves as a
distributor for stock cabinets, offering a one-stop builder
purchase point for stock cabinets; a commercial/contract business,
serving light industrial casework needs with its own in house
manufacturing facility, and a high-end custom kitchen remodeling
business, with a focused “design studio” image.

In fact, the firm’s ability to succeed as a multi-faceted
business  without sacrificing quality earned it top honors in
Category One of K&BDN’s 2001 Industry Leadership Awards
competition.

The 93-year-old Lehigh Valley, PA-based firm is a family affair,
currently managed by the third and fourth generation of the Black
family. Serving the residential and commercial construction trades,
while simultaneously building its reputation as one of the most
respected high-end kitchen and bath remodeling companies in the
area, the company operates out of three locations its headquarters
in Lehigh Valley, and two satellite showrooms in Bartonsville, PA
(the Poconos) and Bryn Mawr, PA (Main Line Philadelphia). 

While some firms have struggled with secondary showrooms,
becoming overextended in their attempts to grow, Morris Black was
able to successfully expand into the two satellite operations
largely because it was able to build on its strengths without
relying on cookie cutter showrooms. Instead, each showroom is
carefully tailored to fit the unique style demands of its
respective clientele.

Recognizing and respecting differences while maintaining the
firm’s overall success strategy has worked well internally, as
well. Within the company, each division has distinctive and
separate responsibilities, yet each benefits from the other’s
experience. For instance, within the builder market, the two sales
organizations, although separated in their business focus, are
supervised by one kitchen department manager. This allows the
retail group to interact with the builder customer service staff
and designers, with each learning from the others.

At the heart of Morris Black is the high-end kitchen design
studio, which utilizes a showroom within a showroom concept,
keeping it completely separate from the stock/builder spaces.
Entering this area, everything from the carpet to the floor to the
design approach to the clientele changes in fact, the firm even
developed a separate image and logo for the high-end
business. 

Collaborative design carry out the service mission, with teams
made up of a senior designer and a design associate. The idea that
“two designers are better than one” works well here, with each
designer bouncing ideas off the other giving customers an added
sense of personalized attention that high-end customers expect. The
design team is backed up by a strong support staff to ensure
“turnkey” full service attention.

This team approach allows the large, multi-faceted business to
maintain the kind of small, personalized and focused “studio”
approach to residential kitchen design that high-end consumers
desire.

The Morris Black Design Studios eschews traditional advertising
in favor of a “community development” marketing campaign that
focuses on strong partnerships with interior designers, architects
and key specifiers within the upscale community. Not only have
interior designers partnered on accessorizing the displays, but
ASID and designer events are regularly held in the showroom, the
firm notes.

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