The first thing that's bound to make an impression is the showroom itself. P.S. Cates is a full-service designer showroom, and it showcases its products and services in a distinctive and high-quality setting. The showroom is done in a decorating style that has earned the Lionville, PA, store the nickname "The Rodeo Drive of the East."
Then there's owner Bill Rosen. "Bill's the orchestrator. He runs the business. He's the entrepreneur," says wife Nancy Rosen, who is P.S. Cates' designer. "Bill greets individuals as they come into the store. He tells them all about P.S. Cates. He escorts them all around the showroom and shows them examples of our work. He talks to them about our client base. He talks to them about the quality and services we provide. He orients them and strikes up a conversation with them, makes them feel warm and welcome and excited about any decorating needs they may have.
"Bill has an unbelievable way of speaking with customers that makes them just like being here," Nancy continues. "It's genuine. He has a way with words. He can convey better than anyone what we are. He made us."
But the clincher is the attention to detail, the depth of knowledge and the care Bill and Nancy Rosen bring to bear on the beautiful and unique custom window treatment designs offered at P.S. Cates. The evidence is everywhere: the distinctive display vignettes, the quality products and samples and the focus the Rosens place on getting everything exactly right for their customers.
"A lot of designers and decorators today have the right background. They say, 'Oh I know color,' or 'Oh, I can put a room together.' But window treatments-custom window dressings-are in a realm of their own. To truly understand custom window treatments you have to be not only a designer or decorator, but you also have to have a manufacturing background and an installation background in addition to a design background," Nancy Rosen says.
"There's an art to it. No two windows are the same. There's a lot that goes into the manufacture of window treatments," she adds. "You have to know how to make them before you can truly sell them and be successful."
Customers find P.S. Cates in the Heritage Shopping Center, a strip shopping center in Lionville, where the 1,800-square-foot showroom has been the past four years. Surrounded by a bank, a restaurant, a chiropractor and other unrelated businesses, P.S. Cates is a destination shop, a place customers seek for custom interior decorating.
"We are a full designer showroom. We have everything from ceiling to floor. We even do exterior work when called upon, if we can. We have high-end wall covering, carpet, window treatments, hard wood flooring, ceramic tile flooring, upholstery, artwork and lighting. We are a design service and paint and wall color consultants," Rosen says.
To reflect their services, the Rosens have created a showroom that beautifully showcases their custom treatments. "We have several vignettes, each consisting of an ensemble of wall coverings, a window undertreatment and a top treatment," Nancy describes.
"We have wall covering displays, we have Oriental rugs all over the floors, we have artwork, we have custom furniture. Our window treatments-you will see nothing like what we have anywhere else. Our window treatments speak for themselves. We have a huge selection of different styles of window treatments and we are very proud of them," she adds.
In many ways, the P.S. Cates showroom pre-qualifies its customers and seamlessly blends with its marketing efforts. A walk-in shopper looking to beat a price on a standard mini-blind would realize immediately that this is not a discount shop. On the other hand, customers looking for individual attention and personal treatment immediately know they've come to the right place.
"You have to do a masterful job of selling yourself and when you have a beautiful showroom it helps you to sell yourself," Rosen explains. "Having a beautiful showroom and business like this is very expensive and it costs a tremendous amount to keep the showroom beautiful. We don't have a problem with asking for money for our product or our service. We aren't the cheapest game in town. We don't want to be the cheapest game in town. We're selling quality, service and dependability as well as a beautiful product. We give our customers a part of us in addition to all that."
The us in P.S. Cates is a team headed by Bill and Nancy Rosen. "It takes Bill and I for P.S. Cates to be successful. Bill is the ultimate designer, the ultimate orchestrator and the ultimate salesman all wrapped in one. Plus, he is the best manufacturer going. If it sounds like I'm bragging about him, I am," Nancy says. "He not only can sell it, but he can make it and he can hang it. There is no one who can dress a window like my husband can. If you can design a window treatment and make a window treatment, but can't hang it and hang it beautifully, then all is for naught."
Nancy describes Bill as a perfectionist and a take-charge kind of person. "The word 'no' hardly exists in his vocabulary," she says. "I've seen my husband work 12 hours on one window. It was a huge window, but it was perfect when he was finished."
Bill is quick to point out, "Nancy is the designer. Everything you see in P.S. Cates' showroom, all the beauty, was created by Nancy. All of our clients love her and her work."
Customers Are Special
The best customer is a happy customer and from the moment of first contact a P.S. Cates customer is treated as being special.
"I have designed what looks like a wedding invitation," Rosen says. It is a card printed on what looks like parchment paper with an antique-type sofa with a drapery design on the front in a baroque frame. The card invites home owners to the showroom and describes its products and services. The card is delivered in a hand-addressed envelop. "We get a great response to it. It doesn't go into the trash. They open it," Rosen says.
"We have our own in-house direct mail system, and we also use the service of a direct mail advertiser. We make an offer to the home owner to come in and use our services via a coupon," she adds.
P.S. Cates prefers to work through appointments. It's another way customers feel special. "If I am working with clients who have asked for an appointment and want me to design window treatments for their entire home and they can be here only during the day to spend a few hours with me, then I lock my showroom door and I devote all my attention to these clients," Rosen says. "We do not have nor want a revolving door of 200 or 100 people coming in on a daily basis because our business is so customized. We design a window treatment around an individual's needs."
Those individuals tend to fall into a similar category, and they are not customers who frequent the box stores. They are clients who don't want the same thing as everyone else, and they come to P.S. Cates because they want creativity, something elegant and sophisticated.
"We have found that 90 percent of our client base falls into a specific age group," Rosen explains. "We cater to more established couples or individuals. By that time they're usually settled in a home or have relocated into a house, have come up the corporate ladder a little bit, are more financially situated to afford custom window products and custom design."
Rosen credits much of P.S. Cates' success to communication and being open and honest with customers. "I am a very, very good listener. I have clients who have worked with decorators before and had very bad experiences. The number one thing they convey to me is that the other decorators have tried to push their personal tastes on the individual purchasing the product. I do not do that."
Rosen listens to what clients say, asks them questions and wants them to be open and honest with her. "I try to give them what they want. Sometimes it's impossible because the application is not right for the look that they want. The entire picture has to be perfect," Rosen says.
"I always try to give them what they want first, if I can't, then it's my job to communicate to them why I can't. Once they feel comfortable with me and know I'm not just pushing my personal taste on them, then I am able to work with that client and design something for them that may not be the original look or the original concept they were thinking about, but by the time we are through they absolutely love what we have done for them."
Regardless of background, Rosen says price is nearly always a consideration for customers. "Many up-scale, CEO types don't ask price. But everybody is somewhat price conscious. What I normally do is price out the job depending on the quantity of work and the difficulty of work. I don't discuss yardage with customers. I don't discuss price per yard. I sell a finished product. I sell a service," she says.
"Every person who walks in the door is important to us, and I treat that individual as if he or she were the last customer on earth. But I can't always help every customer who comes in here. I'll do my best. I'll try very hard." Rosen says sometimes that means letting some customers walk back out of the store. She adds that's a lesson more retailers need to learn. "That bargain shopper was not your customer when they walked into the store," she says. "Be proud of what you do," Rosen advises, "and tell your clientele why you're special, why they're paying more for you."
Formula for Success
Take P.S. Cates' success in window treatments follows a precise and demanding formula:
• Knowledge of design, style, fabric and the vision to know if it will look good on the window.
• Knowing how to take the proper measurements.
• Understanding the manufacturing process for each treatment in order to determine the appropriate application for each window setting.
• Understanding and knowing how a window treatment should and will be installed.
• Perfect, quality manufacturing techniques.
• The artistic touch and innovation needed to dress a beautiful window.
Take these ingredients and add them together for window treatment masterpieces and happy, lifelong customers with others to follow.
P.S. Cates Decorating is honored by its selection as a cover story in Draperies & Window Coverings magazine. This recognition represents a 35-year lifetime achievement. To be recognized in this manner is the equivalent to receiving an Oscar Award, or our industry's highest honor. We would like to share this honor and thank those who contributed to our success:
• Ron Redding, York Wallcovering, the 1999 Allman Award winner, whose exquisite wall covering designs grace our showroom thus inspiring us to create gorgeous window treatments.
• Hunter Douglas Window Fashions for all of its unique and beautiful new products.
• A special heartfelt thanks to Lafayette Venetian Blind. P.S. Cates has had its own custom workroom for 34 years producing window fashions of the highest quality. But for the past seven years we have given all workroom manufacturing duties to Lafayette and we have been a participant in its soft fashions partnering program with the highest degree of satisfaction and success.
We are grateful to all.
Bill and Nancy Rosen