“I feel better giving the money to a family business, though, don’t you?”
“It’s better than giving it to Home Depot, yeah, but do you really want to support a business which is run like THAT?”
We are in the market for a new kitchen including all new cabinets, countertop, backsplash, and appliances and my husband and I have spent the last week rotating between a combination of big-box stores and smaller mom and pop stores trying to get estimates. This was our SECOND visit to this family-run (for 45 years) cabinet shop.
Our contractor told us about this place and guaranteed we’d be able to get everything for the same price as an Ikea kitchen (which was our original inclination), but out of solid wood. On our first visit, we met with Tom Senior, who had a slight Italian accent and a cadence where he sounds like he’s yelling no matter what he said. With Tom Senior, we only went as far as picking out the cabinet door type and color. He briskly led us around the showroom barking out the difference between “the cabinets from China and the American cabinets. What do you want a Buick or a Subaru?”
For every question I would ask, he’d answer, “Well that depends on whether you want that from China or from America.” Incidentally, yes American can cost up to 40% more for the same product.
Tom Senior took our contact information which he sloppily transcribed onto the back of a flyer. After we told him what we decided upon he said, “This is as much as I can do. Now you have to wait for Anthony.”
So we stood around and waited for Anthony, who was working with another couple in the detailed planning of their elaborate kitchen. My husband and I memorized every cabinet door style and pulled out every single drawer in the hour and a half we waited for Anthony to acknowledge us. It never happened so we finally left.
We were frustrated and never thought we’d come back, but our contractor assured us we’d be able to get a stellar price for an outstanding product and “they’re usually excellent” so we thought if we got there right when they opened at 9:00am, we’d be able to get straight to business.
We arrived and there were no lights on at the store even though it was already half an hour past opening time. We asked for Anthony but Tom Junior said he was busy for a few minutes he would talk to us about stuff for a while. When Anthony revealed himself from the “warehouse in the back,” he refused to make eye contact with us and seemed to be a lost soul from The Goonies. As Tom Junior’s younger brother, Anthony was constantly full of excuses and left to “work up a quote for a customer coming in very soon.”
Tom Junior occupied us for another hour discussing the differences between framed and unframed cabinets and he further pontificated on the variations between Chinese-made cabinets and American-made. He kept making analogies to the iPhone factory in China. I’m not sure where he was going with it, but he kept saying, “Once again, you have the iPhone in China kind of cabinets…”
He pointed out how the quality of the particular cabinets I liked was comparable to the American-made cabinets, stressing how the Chinese ones use a higher quality wood (Canadian maple rather than birch) but because of the stigma of “made in China,” those cabinet manufacturers try to lure you in by offering more for the money, like soft-closing doors, wood with no formaldehyde (because that’s another thing I have to worry about) and a higher quality paint for the same price.
Tom Junior continued his lecture, moving on to the various types of quartz countertops which are synthetically created to be “perfect.” He showed us different price points and gave us several brochures. “If something doesn’t bite you from the expensive ones, then you should just go cheap,” he suggested. Same recommendation for handles, “if it doesn’t bite you…” [Note: the most expensive countertop and backsplash bit me.] We learned about sinks and faucets and moved on to door knobs and latches and finally onto seemingly endless organization solutions for the drawers.
I should note Tom Junior had his five-year-old son with him the entire time he was talking with us. He held his son’s hands as he jumped in front of him as if he was one of those old wooden toys with knobs on the side you press and the little wooden figure flips.
The boy was exhausted from the invisible trampoline jumping and I reached my waiting limit. I said, “It doesn’t look like Anthony is going to be done anytime soon. Can we just leave you our size and you can work something up?”
Tom Junior says, “Well let me just work something up real quick.” He Netflixed the animated movie, Home for his son on one computer and opened up the kitchen planning software on another.
My husband and I look at each and roll our eyes, gasp and sigh deeply wondering why he hadn’t started with the layout when we first got there since he was clearly very proficient when it came to the designing. We got down to business and picked out the sizes of the cabinets, orchestrating a functional arrangement complete with pull out drawers and a huge pantry. It took two hours of sitting at the computer and a total of three hours of waiting, but we had a kitchen layout.
On the ride home, I tell my husband the “you’re flooded so now surprise, you’re renovating your kitchen” club isn’t fun and I just want to say, “Yes please, one order of the layout please.”
“But do you really want to work with a business like that?” he reminds me and I just don’t know.