As a senior in high school, Andrew MacLaren had a friend who worked for a kitchen dealer that took on additions and other remodeling projects. MacLaren began working in the company and eventually became the lead employee at the business. After five years with the organization, he decided in 1984 to hang out his shingle and establish the first of his own remodeling companies.

“I really enjoyed working with my hands, and I enjoyed building things. I liked the finish aspect of it too: the finished carpentry, the cabinets, the trim, that kind of stuff,” recalls MacLaren, who went on to start another business, MacLaren Kitchen & Bath, in West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1990. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but the guy I worked for forced me to do things differently. He made a lot of errors, measurement and procedural mistakes that were avoidable just by dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s; you know, measure it twice and order it once.”

In his first business, MacLaren developed the ability to manufacture some products in-house to offset demand on the remodeling side. He brought this approach to MacLaren Kitchen & Bath, where designers work with clients one-on-one to select a natural stone, solid surface or quartz countertop that is fabricated in-house. The company carries five different cabinet lines as well as two outdoor cabinet options, one of which is an RTA product whose parts are assembled on site.

The remodeler meets with clients in its showroom or—if a site measure is needed—at the jobsite. Designers determine the scope of work, the type of space being renovated or built, specific tasks, and all materials. Once they have enough information, designers can create a preliminary design for the space, make material recommendations and provide rough budget numbers to the owners.

Plans are now presented for review in the showroom, where customers have access to material samples and displays for reference. Revisions can then be made based on discussions between the designer and client. Once plans are approved and a deposit received, materials are ordered. The designer will present the client and installer with a job binder of detailed drawings, cabinet orders, material specifications and any other possibly useful information regarding their project.

“I learned a long time ago from my father that if you service your clients well and you do a good job—and you go above and beyond—you’ll always get business on a referral basis,” MacLaren explains. “And a referral is your strongest closer. We’ve always put referrals as our No. 1 [most valuable] advertisement. On the retail side, referrals are up around 75 percent of our business.”

The company gets almost 100 percent of its leads from the internet and will continue investing in the online marketing side of things, such as SEO keywords, Google ads and improving the brand website, he adds. “We’re starting to video a lot of our projects—most of our kitchen remodels—in order to target direct retail as well as our remodeler base. We’ve got a wholesale business and a retail business, so we want to support our remodeling customers as well as our retail remodels.”

After a soft fourth quarter last year, the beginning of 2024 has gone much better for the company so far, MacLaren says. “Usually, the end of the year is strong, but we still finished close to where we were in ’22 ($4.2 million in remodeling sales). I’m optimistic we’re looking good. I’ve got a good mix; when one segment’s not strong, hopefully the others are. It’s a bonus of my business.”

Without a plumber on staff, MacLaren Kitchen & Bath ends up receiving more kitchen projects than bathroom jobs, he notes. “Bathroom remodels are more plumbing-oriented from a remodel standpoint. People usually go there first—or they should go there first. Bath remodels are a lot harder than kitchens. You can put only one trade in a bathroom; you can put three in a kitchen.”

In his kitchen projects, MacLaren still sees perimeter cabinets done mostly in lighter paint colors, whites and off-whites. For the islands, he has noticed blues and greens coming back as a contrast to the counter surfaces, where white remains king. “It just continues to be this real clean, sterile look which, between you and me, I don’t like at all. But it’s got to be 85 percent of our business.”

Porcelain has flooded the bathroom remodel market, causing the company to proceed cautiously when deciding which products to handle, he adds. “Now, we think that we’ve got a couple good partners there, and we’re going to move forward with trying to ramp up a really good bath slab-wall program. I’d say the wet-wall opportunity is something that we’re really going to tap into.” QR

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