For more than a hundred years, customers throughout Westchester have turned to Wallauer Paint and Design Centers to help revamp their homes. The fourth-generation family-owned business offers an extensive selection of paints from Benjamin Moore, specialty products and accessories from Ace Hardware, window treatments from Hunter Douglas, designer fabrics and wall coverings, area rugs, and has 15 stores across Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties.
Considering that 20 percent of most new businesses fail within the first year and that number increases to almost 66 percent after ten years, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, what keeps both contractors and homeowners coming back to their local Wallauer store? The answer can best be summed up by the company’s Chief Operating Officer Edward Klein. “It really comes down to having a knowledgeable group of people who know their craft and provide excellent customer service. Then it is word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied customers that Wallauer is the go-to place for home improvement locally.”
Many of their employees are local and have worked for the company for a decade or more. When they hire employees, they are looking for people with a broad base of knowledge. Customers may ask about everything from painting projects, to lawn care to plumbing products, so the company looks for employees that can help homeowners with a multitude of products from start to finish.
Spurred by the COVID crisis, New Castle and North Castle and surrounding towns are hot housing markets with an influx of new residents, many of them first time homeowners. “We can help people with anything they want to do in their homes ranging from the walls, the windows to the floors with premium high-quality products and even in-home color consultations,” said Klein.
Wallauer offers home design services in six of their stores and offers Ace Hardware Departments in five. Every Wallauer Design department features window displays from Hunter Douglas Window Fashions, specializing in motorization and full house automation of blinds and shades. Designers featured in top shelter magazines including fabrics from Robert Allen, Kravet, Fabricut and Kasmir and top wallpaper brands such as Schumacher, Thibaut, Nina Campbell and Candice Olson are also available.
The company prides itself on offering products that you wouldn’t find in a big box store. Klein points out Benjamin Moore Paints as a prime example. Owned by billionaire Warren Buffet, the paint is only sold in independent home improvement stores. “Would Home Depot or Lowe’s like to sell Benjamin Moore? I assure you they would,” quips Klein. In fact, the company is the largest Benjamin Moore paint, hardware and decorating retailer in Westchester, Rockland & Putnam.
They also have a long-standing relationship with the paint company spanning a hundred years when company founder Clarence Rudolph Wallauer opened his first Wallauer store in White Plains in 1921. The company initially had a strong focus on paint and wallpaper coverings but over the years their product line expanded and diversified as did the company’s footprint with 15 stores in the county ranging from the largest store in White Plains to popular ones further north such as the Carmel and South New Rochelle locations.
The Challenges of COVID
Like every other business, Wallauer has been affected by the COVID crisis. Luckily, they have seen their business grow 20 percent in the past two years but recruiting employees and maintaining stock has been challenging. “There are supply chain issues all over the housing market with fulfillment but we do have product and warehouses to store our stock,” notes Klein.
Additionally, the customer base has changed dramatically throughout COVID. Prior to COVID, 75 percent of their customers were contractors and 25 percent were homeowners. One year into COVID, the customer base shifted to 75 percent DIY homeowners so the importance of having knowledgeable staff who could explain projects to first time homeowners was a key differentiator for the business. In addition, they had to enhance their online focus with curbside pickup and fulfillment of mobile orders. Currently, their customers are 60 percent contractors and 40 percent homeowners. “Many of our customers didn’t even know about us but once they come here, they’d rather go to us than a big box store. The pandemic has shown people the value of making investments in their homes,” notes Klein.
Giving Back to The Community & Customers
As a long-standing local business, Wallauer has also contributed to The Pink Fund, a non-profit breast cancer organization that provides 90-day non-medical cost-of-living expenses to breast cancer patients who are in active treatment. This year marks the fourth year in a row that Wallauer has supported the organization. The company cares greatly about the communities and customers they serve. They match every donation made at the point of sale by customers and to date have donated over $15,000.
In addition, to celebrate their 100th anniversary and to thank long time customers as well as new, a $100 gift certificate will be awarded to one shopper in every Wallauer store every month through December 2021. To register for the drawings, visit www.wallauer.com/100-years/. In addition, Wallauer will offer a “buy one paint sample, get a second one at ‘100%’ off” throughout the year. Sprucing up your home in time for the holidays has never been easier.