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Designer showcase ushers in new concept for bath, kitchen shopping

Jackson — There’s a new way to shop for bath and kitchen fixtures. Southern Bath & Kitchen has brought the designer showroom concept to the area with its 4,000-square-foot facility at LeFleur’s Gallery location at 4800 I-55 North.

With 34 manufacturers represented in fully appointed, finished settings, shoppers can see and touch products to know exactly what they’re getting. Referred to as a boutique showroom, it’s the first of its kind for the venerable company.

Southern Bath & Kitchen is a division of Southern Pipe & Supply Company, one of the nation’s largest privately held, independent wholesalers of plumbing, heating and air-conditioning materials. The family-owned Mississippi business was founded in 1938 and operates 80 branches in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida and Tennessee.

Marty Davidson, chairman of the board, is proud to be a Mississippi company and bring this new concept to the state. His grandfather started the business, his father worked in it and now he and his son are at the helm. If all goes well, his four-year-old grandson will become the fifth generation Davidson to run the Meridian-headquartered company.

Although the company has always had showrooms, they were ready to make some changes. “We wanted to try something different in a spacious setting. We were not really doing justice to the wide range of products,” he said of the designer showroom. “We now have a tremendous range of material on display. It’s easy to get to right off the interstate, and we can offer much better service.”

That S-word is important to Davidson, who says the showroom’s six employees have the knowledge and time to spend with customers that make a difference. Certified kitchen designers and bath design experts experienced in every aspect of building and remodeling staff the new location.

“Sometimes in the big box stores, the employees don’t know enough to help customers,” he said. “We have people who know all there is to know about those products.”

Ed Vaughn, director of showroom development for the company, says the designer showroom is the opposite of the do-it-yourself, big box retailers. “Our consultants are trained, knowledgeable experts with more than 75 years combined experience in kitchen and bath design, not employees who might work in another department the next day,” he said.

Davidson said response to the showroom, which has been open since March 1, is very good. “The atmosphere is more relaxed and conducive to making decisions,” he said. “We’re trying to gear this operation to someone who wants to see everything, and not out of a catalogue — it’s there on display.”

Joyce Steele of Jackson was a recent shopper and found the showroom “beautiful, very refreshing and new with contemporary, bright colors.” The part-time bookkeeper is remodeling an older home and looking for plumbing fixtures.

“It’s a very fun place to shop,” she said. “I haven’t bought anything yet but I’m working through a contractor and will place a big order.”

Another recent shopper, David Weems of David Weems Construction Co., thinks the showroom is “great because customers can walk in and see all the new products in a finished setting.”

Weems, who worked with Foshee Construction Company for 24 years before starting his own company, builds upper-scale homes. “For these homes, it takes more and people want cutting-edge products,” he said. “They also want to see it in a finished state and this is a great sales tool.”

Davidson says baths and kitchens have had more focus in the last few years. “People have more interest in these two rooms now,” he said. “In the last five to eight years we have seen these rooms evolve in importance, so it’s a good time to have this type of showroom.”

Southern Bath & Kitchen feels it’s important to add value to customers’ shopping experiences. “That’s where we’re headed,” the chairman of the board said. “This is the first time we’ve done this, and if it works, we’ll do it in other places. It’s a test project and the early reading is good.”

The company plans to open other concept showrooms and rework several existing ones throughout the South over the next five years. The Jackson location will serve as the flagship showroom and the model for designer showrooms in other states.

He adds that baths and kitchens are all Southern Bath & Kitchen does and they try to do them right. “This is what we do for a living and our people really know what they’re doing,” he said.

The new showroom offers the latest in premium cabinetry, countertops, faucets, sinks, tubs and appliances from the world’s leading manufacturers. These top-of-the-line products are showcased in a unique setting. Soothing music plays as customers browse the well-appointed showroom and an aromatherapy machine fills the air with pleasant fragrances.

Silk-screened banners promoting tranquility, serenity and luxury float above the displays. Customers are offered flavored coffees to sip while they browse.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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