Carriage House Lighting

by admins on July 23, 2009

 

Artist/Company Information

 

Company/Artisan Name:

     Carriage House Lighting

     Joseph Merle

Address:

     309 West Franklin St.

     Troy, Ohio 45373

 Phone: 937-339-3364

Website: www.carriagehouselightingandtinware.com

  Name of President/Owner/CEO: Joseph Merle

 

Please describe your art?

     18th and 19th century early American lighting.  Period tinware lighting including table lamps, chandeliers, floor lamps, sconces, lanterns, and accessories.

-         How long have you been making your product?

     I’ve been building lights for over 20 years.

 

-         How did you get started?        

     Actually by accident. I had no intention of becoming a Tinsmith, I      just fell into it.   

 

-         How did you let people know about you & your product?

     Word of mouth through our customers, tradeshows.

 

Do you have a guiding philosophy?

     Take care of your customers. If we don’t like it we won’t sell it.  It has to be up to our standards before we ship it.

    

Do you sell to retail shop owners? (Do you sell Wholesale)?

     Yes.

 

·        Can you explain why you choose to or not choose to sell wholesale?

     Initially this is how we got started.  We choose to sell wholesale because our customers know what they want and are familiar with our product and services.

 

·        What made you decide to sell wholesale or to not sell wholesale?

     Our first trade show was wholesale.  We recently started selling a little retail. The retail aspect of our business is actually only about 1%.

 

·        Do you have any advice to other vendors/artists on working with shop owners?  Make sure that they are taken care of and always be honest.  We want them to succeed; if they are successful we are successful. We only want our clients to buy what they need and can afford. We tell them this.

 

-         Is it important to forge relationships with shop owners?

     Absolutely.  Although we may not be able to see them on daily or even semi annual basis, we try to reach out to them over the phone and e-mail.

-         Do you educate your buyers on your product?

      Yes.

 

     * If so, how do you educate them?

     We answer any question they have and try to show them how to take care of and maintain the light if necessary. Also, we try to supply any literature we have      available to help answer their customers questions about our product.

 

     * Why is it important?

                       It’s important because the more they know the easier it will be for them to make a sale and hopefully reorder.

 

 

      Have you ever participated in a trade show?

     Yes.

o       If so, please tell us about your experience

     In past years we have only participated in one or two shows per year. This year, we have already been to, I think, seven shows. We have been requested to participate in different venues this year. It is hard work, but we really enjoy it and our daughter often comes along.  Our recent experience has been my wife and I exhibiting at two shows at the same time. 

 

o       Do you have any advice to fellow artists on how to prepare for a show?

     Work hard and never try to speed the process by taking the short route. Make sure it looks great and you are completely satisfied, no matter how tired you are.

     Check out the show before you do it. Make sure it fits your product.  Also, ask people what works and what doesn’t.

 

o       Tips on displaying products?

     Always bring new designs and display them well.  Make them the center of attention and be sure to point them out.

 

·        Some artists do not sell wholesale because they believe they cannot get fair value for their product. Can you describe benefits to selling wholesale, especially in a struggling economy?

     We sell wholesale in this struggling economy because our customers know what they want and ultimately this is how the business model is structured. 

 

If you sell to shop owners, is it important to be discriminative on whom you sell to?

We usually sell to furniture and antique shops. We have some catalog and internet based companies that we work with as well. 

 

If you sell retail as well as wholesale, do you see any competitive conflicts with your shops that carry your items?

     No. The reason is because we do not sell very much retail; maybe 1% of our business is retail.

 

Do you have any advice for artisans on weathering a poor economy?     

     Cut costs, eliminate any debt, and do not live beyond your means.

 

Do you advertise?

     No. We advertise through the participation in a trade show. We have never advertised in any publication, paper, or magazine.  We have had articles written about us; in fact we will be in a magazine next quarter.

 

-         What are some effective (& economical) ways to let customers know about you?

     Word of mouth and free advertising.  Trying alternate trade shows in different locations and reaching new clients.  We also send out brochures, make phone calls, current website updates, and mail post cards provided by trade shows.  Sometimes, we send potential clients a light to try in their shop.  There are lots of alternate ways to be creative.

 

Is it important to love what you do? Yes. We love our job. It is labor intensive and we work long hours, but we enjoy it.

 

Where do you find inspiration for new designs?

     We often have customers ask for custom designs, historical books, museums, and variations of our current pieces. Most of the time it is me, a pencil, notepad, and some sketches trying to make it all come together.

 

Do you have a favorite quote?

              “Never Quit” – Joe

                     And

              “Always treat people the way you would want to be treated.”  - Teri

 

 

What do you think American artisans/venders can do to make themselves more marketable/sellable?         

     We need to promote the American Made status as much as possible and stick together. Make it known that we are proud of our hard work and want everyone to know that it is us that made this product for you.

 

Product Description

·        Please describe your product:

     18th and 19th century early American lighting.  Period tinware lighting including table lamps, chandeliers, floor lamps, sconces lanterns and accessories.

 

 

·        Describe how your products are made:

     Our products are 100% handmade. We do not use stamp presses or any heavy machinery to make our lighting.  Each crimp, bend, and attention to detail is made      with our hands.  We have the proof to show you; look at these farmer hands.

 

·        Describe how your products are unique from similar items in the market place: 

     First and foremost we are 100% Handmade in America. Our finish and attention to detail and design are unique. 

 

·        Describe how you offer competitively priced merchandise

     We are able to maintain competitive pricing based upon the fact that we do not live beyond our means. We love what we do and enjoy providing the best product we can build. We have not raised our prices in some time. We pass the savings on to our customers whenever we can.

 

Marketing

·        Describe the different marketing materials you produce to promote your products:

     We have our catalog, post cards, website, word of mouth and tradeshows. We have not put any add in any publication.

 

Ordering Process

a.     Describe your ordering process

     We have a few options in ordering. You can always call us, fax, e-mail, or place your order at the show.

 

·        Ways customers can view and order your merchandise:

     We have a catalog that most of our customers use which includes a color insert page. We also have our website or booth to order from at tradeshows.  Often we make new        designs that may not be photographed. Since it is just my wife and I in the shop, you could often describe the piece you are looking for and we will know what you are referring to.

 

·        Minimum order, return policy, order confirmation, back order and shipping process:

     We do not have a minimum order. We have not had anything returned, but if UPS damages your light we will ship you out a new piece. As for order confirmation, my      wife will usually call and let you know we are working on your order and you will be receiving it soon.  We ship UPS and only charge what UPS charges. We do not have any additional handling charges or material costs associated with shipping.

 

Customer Service

·        Describe what constitutes customer service to you and Give examples of how you provide excellent customer service:

     Honesty.  We are honest with our customers and try to provide genuine personal customer service.

·        Give examples of how you help your customer grow his/her business…

     We try to make sure that our customers are provided with the essential information    and product to help them become successful. 

 

Describe how your company/customer base has grown over the years:

     Our customer base has grown over the years and we have adjusted to those changes. In the past we had a crew working for us so we needed to have that continuous growth to make sure our employees were taken care of. Currently, there are only 2 of us in the shop, my wife and myself.  We are responsible for taking care of it all.  We try to limit how much we take on.  

 

Community and Charity Involvement

We donate lights to local charity events and try to volunteer at the elementary school.       In the past we have demonstrated the art Tinsmithing for elementary children and gave them the opportunity to look at and use some of our tools. 

 

Any Additional Information

 

     We just want to thank you for taking time to read what we have to say.

 

     Joe and Teri Merle 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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