D&WC: Please give a
detailed description of your company and its history.
Carol Bennett: Bringing his work home was never a liability for Sam Pampenella, Jr., president of Unique Wholesale Distributors, Inc. in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Rather, it was where Unique Wholesale got its roots. Having grown up in his family’s Ace Hardware business, Sam’s feel for success began at age 20 when he joined his father on a full-time basis in the family store. In between sales, he was busy making shades; a venture, that would eventually outpace revenues generated by the store’s hardware.
In 1972, flourishing sales prompted Sam’s father to sell the hardware store and open Ace Window Shades in Sunrise, FL. Marked by steadily increasing sales, the company was highly successful. So successful, that in 1977, when Sam Sr. sold the business and retired, Sam Jr. seized the opportunity to venture on his own. Joined by wife Sandy, shades were made and sold in the back room of their house. Six months later, Sam rented a small 1,500-square-foot warehouse nearby to accommodate what the house couldn’t.
After several brainstorming sessions to determine the name of the company, Sam thought of “Rainbow” while Sandy thought of “Unique.” Little did she know her idea was years ahead of its time.
Rainbow was a retail company with a shade line and vertical blinds, which were manufactured and installed by Sam. In 1978, the retail operation diversified to include several wholesale accounts. Two years later, the latter dominated, hence Unique Wholesale Distributors, Inc.
In 1980, Sam sold his retail store and opened Unique in a specially designed 6,000-square-foot facility. Rapid growth prompted many moves and expansions. Now upon its 25th anniversary, the company operates in three buildings totaling nearly 60,000 square feet and employs more than 160 people.
D&WC: What window coverings products did you handle initially? What products do you handle today?
Bennett: Over the past 25 years Unique has gone from fabricating a shade line and vertical blinds to becoming a Graber-preferred fabricator manufacturing the following Graber products:
CrystalPleat® Cellular Shades
FashionPleat® Pleated Shades
EvenPleat® Pleated Shades
Traditions™ Wood Blinds
Lake Forest™ Faux Wood Blinds
Aluminum and vinyl horizontal blinds
Unique is also a full-line distributor of the following:
Graber Traditions™ Shutters
Graber Tradewinds™ Natural Shades
Graber Synergy® Innovative Shadings
Graber drapery hardware
Graber LightWeaves™ Solar Shades
Comfortex Shangri-La Sheer Horizontal
Kirsch drapery hardware
Fresco® Roman Shades
D&WC: Is your business computerized? Do you have a company Web site, and how is it used to communicate with customers?
Bennett: Unique Wholesale’s Web site address is www.uniquewholesale.net
As well as having a Web site, Unique has an Online Customer Resource Center for its customers. This system offers many benefits to customers such as information including order status, product discounts, shipment tracking information and accounting information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This Resource Center is offered at no cost to Unique’s valued customers.
D&WC: Who are your customers? What parts of the country do you service? How many salespeople do you employ?
Bennett: The majority of Unique’s customers are throughout the state of Florida. Unique also services customers in the southcentral portion of the United States, primarily Louisiana and Texas; as well as customers throughout the Southeast: Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas.
Unique currently employs eight sales representatives.
D&WC: What distinguishes you from the competition?
Bennett: Unique has remained one of the leaders in the industry because of the commitment to three key ingredients: service, quality and dependability. From our sales department through to production, Unique’s entire staff is dedicated to excellence with customer service being the ultimate goal.
Unique recognizes the need to have a dependable supplier. Unique personally delivers products to customers throughout the entire state of Florida, with the exception of the Panhandle. Seldom, if ever, will a customer not receive an order on the requested date.
D&WC: Do you work through distributors or only sell direct to the retailer? Do you offer any products other than window coverings?
Bennett: Unique Wholesale sells strictly to the retailer.
We do not offer any products other than window coverings and accessories, nor does Unique provide any home furnishing services.
D&WC: Do you educate your customers?
Bennett: Unique’s customer service, in addition to seminars often held, educates our customers. Unique offers a friendly customer service department qualified to assist our customers in any way. Several of the customer service reps have been a part of Unique’s team for many years. As well, all new employees receive extensive knowledge through our training program.
Unique Wholesale Distributors Inc.
6811 N.W. 15th Ave.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309
fax: (954) 975-0297