Buying home furnishings locally is a win-win with benefits to customers, businesses and the community at-large. Residents of the Roaring Fork Valley have plenty of choices when it comes to home furnishings, so they need not take the long trip to Denver or decide what to buy based on only limited glimpses of products on the Internet. Discerning shoppers have quality local choices from a range of businesses.
by Chad Abraham

Support for Local Non-Profit Groups

“There are more important reasons than convenience to shop locally,” says Bridget Balentine, who with her husband, Rick, has owned the Balentine Collection International Showroom specializing in floor coverings for nearly 20 years in Aspen. “Consumers do not understand the outward repercussions and the losses to the community from not trading at a local store in order to save percentages,” she adds. “For example, a local theater company may request a donation of carpet. If I don’t have the sales to support our business, I can’t give to them or other local charities like Challenge Aspen when they need a product at cost.”

Pay Local Taxes

Bridget Balentine also says that buying from local business helps the tax bases of the city of Aspen and Pitkin County and without local purchases,
governments must look elsewhere for taxes. She points out the city’s recent, short-lived proposal to charge for parking on Sundays.

Hire Locally

Ajax Pool & Spa owner, Juliet Phelps, makes an additional point about how businesses like hers and others such as Styles Kitchen & Bath Studio use longtime local contractors. “I work with qualified contractors every day in Aspen, and I trust them to do a good job at a fair price,” she explains, making the point that her business employs people who pay local taxes and offer her customers reliable, proven service.

Close and Convenient

Saving the four hours it takes to drive to Denver is another benefit. It is an easy choice whether to make a long drive or to try out a hot tub at Phelps’ business located conveniently in the Aspen Business Center. Juliet Phelps offers customers the opportunity to jump into a hot tub before buying and she will prepare more than one tub for comparison if given a half-day’s notice. “The distance problem goes both ways,” Phelps notes. “If you get a five-year warranty on a product, the repair guy from Denver is not going to be too keen on making a four-hour commute just for one account.”

Stand Behind Products and Services

The immaculate showroom of Styles Kitchen & Bath Studio in Basalt aims to impress. Walking in, one notices a beautiful blue-lit bar near a kitchen with a sliding glass door accessing a temperature-controlled wine room. Everything in the kitchen and showroom function, including all of the appliances. “The reason why I think it is best to come to a place like ours or any of the kitchen houses around here is service,” says Ronald Purcio, president and founder of Styles. “If you try to do something online and inexpensively, you may be really happy with the price, but most people are not happy with the finished project. With Styles Kitchen & Bath Studio, if a customer has a problem after installation, they know right where the business is and that a friendly face will be on hand to help rectify any issues. We’re bricks and mortar,” Purcio adds. “We’re not going away.”

Reputation Means Everything

Ronald Purcio makes another important point: As a small business, his goal is to ensure clients are satisfied because the valley is a small place, and word-of-mouth reputation is crucial. He notes that pretty good people manage local kitchen stores in the valley and most have been in business for many years. “Our own game plan is truly to have our clients happy,” he explains, and notes that the motto for his business is clients for life. “If our clients are happy, they send in other clients. We are working with second generations now because we’ve done projects for their parents or grandparents.”

Close By for Responsive Service

Hands-on service is important to Juliet Phelps at Ajax Pool & Spa, and she demonstrates this point when she says she often visits customers’ residences with designers to investigate energy sources and even determine whether a crane will be necessary for installation. “I look at a lot of little things that they have probably never thought about or planned for,” she recounts. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’m pretty good at it.” Additionally, she and other employees offer input on everything from thermal hot-tub covers to possible rebates, and the business carries chemicals needed for maintenance. “When you go online, there is no local customer service,” Phelps notes.

Ronald Purcio agrees with Phelps about the need for local sales, service and installation. “Workers have to come up here and measure,” says Purcio, a certified kitchen designer. “And afterwards they need to be held accountable.” He notes that it doesn’t always happen with installers from out of the area, and at the end of the day, the potential complications of unskilled installation mean more dollars spent to fix needless problems that businesses like Purcio’s prevent. “Installers used by Styles have been associated with the business for nearly two decades and are among some of the best in the Roaring Fork Valley,” clarifies Purcio. “We insist we install all the cabinets we sell,” Purcio notes. “These installers know how we think, and how everything has to be. In the long run, it’s a much better deal for the client.”

All In it Together

Bridget Balentine wraps up the comments by coming back to the point of doing what is right for the community—those who live next door, in the neighborhood, and in town. “If we hire local people, these workers can also then pay their mortgages,” Balentine explains. “Without this income, workers and stores will disappear.” To support this she points to Aspen’s lack of a fabric store and that she now has to wait for a repairman from Grand Junction to travel to the valley to fix her dryer.

“Buying locally is about people realizing that you have to support the local stores even if the price is 10% over outside costs,” Balentine declares. “There are huge ramifications.”

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