"An Oldie but Goodie" article on the creation of Prairieside Suites [April 2001] Grandville, MI
All across America, the trend toward working at home continues to gain steam. Here in downtown Grandville, Cheri and Paul Antozak have taken the idea to a new level, building both their lives and their businesses around the concept, to considerable success.
Cheri Antozak, CKD, CBD, and her husband, a licensed builder, had no intention of actually moving into the 80-year-old colonial they bought to renovate. The original idea was to create a unique showroom for "Interiors by Cheri," one that would replace their existing showroom, which had been located in a strip mall since 1986. Cheri Antozak says that they wanted to create the "illusion of having it all and daring customers to reach for their dreams."
In their spare time, the Antozaks renovated the 2,800-square-foot main floor of the colonial home over a five-year period. They also purchased and renovated several neighboring apartment buildings for investment purposes during that time. All of the properties purchased had fallen on hard times, and area residents welcomed the renovations. They soon began encouraging the Antozaks to move into the neighborhood.
The idea of a home and showroom rolled into one struck the Antozaks as unique. The pair always seemed to be there in their spare time anyway, completing most of the renovations themselves. So, about a year ago, the Antozaks moved into their new home and showroom permanently.
"People remodel because they want the end result not because they are interested in the nuts and bolts," observes Cheri Antozak, who also has a builder's license. She explains that she doesn't want her customers to feel like they are shopping. Rather, she wants them to feel like a guest in her home, being shown throughout the house. In fact, the Antozaks have all the rooms in which they live open to their customers. "No room is off limits," explains Cheri Antozak.
The showroom/home includes 13 rooms: A living room, library, dining room, office, multi-purpose room that includes laundry facilities, kitchen, four bathrooms and three bedrooms. According to their extensive Web site, which includes a color photo tour of the colonial, "The rooms are connected by doors and hallways, to allow for a smooth, circular tour around the house." Each room is decorated by Cheri Antozak and showcases the various talents of the husband-and-wife team.
Cheri Antozak counts among her talents "the ability to organize and be neat" and a "God-given ability to create beautiful rooms." The planning and design that went into the rooms prove her right. A multi-purpose room includes a laundry center with four roll-out hamper baskets, a gardening area with a pull-out table extension, recycling bins and a craft storage area.
The kitchen includes a sink that is located in front of a pass-through to a well-appointed dining room. A countertop on the dining room side offers extra space for buffets. A china cabinet holds the Antozaks' collection of antique crystal.
The bathrooms are smaller than many of today's more luxurious appointed plans, but they showcase effective utilization of space something many clients appreciate. The Antozaks even included an elaborate hot tub in the master bedroom. The house also features five different painting techniques (with two more in the works).
While this all-consuming philosophy toward business might be overwhelming for many, this couple thrives on the experience. In fact, Cheri Antozak says that she always tries to have something cooking on the stove or in the oven when customers arrive. "I've greeted more than one customer with an apron on," she says, referring to the cookies, popcorn, bread and chili she's prepared for showroom guests. When appointments arrive at the "Interiors by Cheri" showroom, the Antozaks make sure that the place looks and smells good. They even put on music.
Who are these lucky consumers who arrive on the Antozaks' doorstep, ready to be fed and dazzled? Careful tracking of their consumer base allows Cheri Antozak to be very specific. "We have a medium- to medium-high-end client base," she explains. Customers tend to be couples with two incomes, between the ages of 35 and 65. The majority of her customers are people who own their own businesses.
Mrs. Antozak emphasizes, "We are a small business," explaining that they complete some 12 kitchens and 12 bathrooms annually. They also do a variety of decorating and remodeling projects, and are known for their fearlessness with regard to remodeling old homes. They are likewise known for their willingness to work with the do-it-yourself type customer.
Though the Antozaks used to do home shows and some advertising, they no longer bother, except for a small ad in the Yellow Pages. "Our referrals are almost totally from word of mouth," says Cheri Antozak. While little paid advertising is done, Cheri Antozak does look for opportunities to publicize the unusual showroom she and her husband have created. And, the local media has been quite responsive.
Cheri Antozak is also very active in the Grandville community, having served on the local planning commission and various civic and arts groups. This community service has helped the business, she explains, since "It has put my name in front of lots of people."
The couple also attributes their success to the fact that they typically have control over a whole project. Paul Antozak is able to do most of the renovations and installations, while his wife plans and decorates. In this way, customers find that they get continuity, and the project moves forward nicely. When a project is completed, customers are asked to fill out a survey that is later included in a book used as a sales tool. Cheri says, "We're here to inspire people to live the life they dream about. We help them break out of their shell, be more creative and be more daring."
Cheri Antozak describes her showroom home as "tasteful, traditional and creative." And, no doubt those who visit her there would agree: "There's no place like home."