Twenty years ago, Scott Creager was a decorative concrete installer in Texas who couldn't find anyone locally to sell him the materials he needed. So, to make sure the products he needed would be available, he and Kim Creager opened their own store - Decorative Concrete Supply Inc.
The original DCS was in a 1,500-square-foot warehouse in the Dallas suburbs. "All we sold was decorative concrete supplies, and it was lonely," says Kim. "We started off slowly, but we really worked to get our name out there."
What really gave the burgeoning store its reputation was Scott's expertise. He was willing to share that knowledge with other contractors. "Back then, people were hearing about the decorative industry and they were interested in getting into it, but they needed the technical support and guidance," says Scott. "We built our business on training and customer loyalty. We still have clients who were here on dayÂ one."
Since that small-scale start, Decorative Concrete Supply has expanded far beyond its original warehouse. Today, the company boasts 13,000 square feet of space in three locations: Carrollton (north of Dallas), Buda (south of Austin), and Houston.
"Each store is very different, with its own personality," says Kim. The store in Carrollton has the largest showroom, she says. "We have the space to showcase many of the different applications, and there are also several countertop displays."
The Buda location, which sits on an acre and a half of land, serves as Decorative Concrete Supply's training facility. "We have the perfect place for the classroom setting here, as well as the space needed for the hands-on training," she says. "We can have the concrete trucks pull right up and pour concrete."
The newest store, with a showroom and two side-by-side warehouses, is in Houston.
One thing all the stores have in common is a bilingual manager. "It's very important," says Kim. "It's a way we can best service our customers."
Plus, every store has a friendly, knowledgeable staff. "We're known for our customer service," she says.
Staffpeople don't just answer questions. They get to know clients as individuals. Their customer base has helped, as it's loyal - some have been coming to the store since it opened. Kim also spends a lot of time in each of the stores and works directly with customers herself, setting an example. "If you've been to our store more than one time, someone on the staff is going to know your name when you walk in," she says.
All of the stores have bilingual managers to best serve their customers, many of whom speak Spanish.
Training opportunities are what Decorative Concrete Supply may be best known for, but Scott is always looking to improve the presentations.
"When we first started the seminars we taught stamping, staining and countertops in one session," he says. "It didn't take long to realize they neeeded to be their own class."
So instead of cramming everything into one overview seminar, he has broken the seminars into three topics: concrete stamping, staining and overlays, and countertops and molds.
"We rotate those around every three months," Scott says. "We found that very helpful, as did our customers. Our success is built on their success, and we want to do what we can to make our customers successful."
Because the seminars are held outdoors at the Buda location, they are usually scheduled during the spring and the fall. "We take off the summer because the contractors are busy at that time of the year," says Kim. "And it is just too hot!"
They usually run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, but Scott will stay until every question is answered. Store employees sit in on the training classes so they can learn about the products and techniques and are able to field virtually any customer question.
An area is set up for a free demo. Lasting about an hour, each demo gives contractors an opportunity to have their concerns addressed about a particular product. The demos are offered at all locations.
In addition to the seminars, Decorative Concrete Supply offers free demo days. Scott gains feedback from the customers on a regular basis, and then he takes time once a month at each location to address their concerns. The demos, which last about an hour, are held indoors and year-round.
"Maybe they are having problems with a polyurethane, or maybe the problem is with countertops," Scott says. "I can focus on the questions posed to me and show them solutions. We've had great success and turnout at all three stores."
"Plus our employees attend those demos and the seminar training," Kim adds. "It's imperative that they are up to speed on the latest materials."
Carrying it all
Anything to do with decorative concrete is sold at the three locations. "We not only have all the chemical products, but we can provide the tools and other products needed," says Scott. "It's a one-stop shop."
Decorative Concrete Supply's inventory is 100 percent decorative concrete - with one exception. "We do have a wood-stain product," says Kim. The idea to stock the product came from a customer who was looking to add another job tool to market. "It's been a nice addition for our staining contractors who are now also staining fences and decks."
Scott adds that wood staining has also been added to his staining seminar. "If you are going to be a staining contractor, people have wood that needs to be stained, as well as concrete." Again, it's another way that the Creagers can help their customers become more successful.
Overall, the company's best-selling products are its own Decorative Concrete Supply brand of acrylic sealers. "We have an indoor version and an outdoor version with a special UV additive," says Kim. "It's a high-quality product."
Integral colors are also very popular. In fact, Kim believes Decorative Concrete Supply to be the go-to supplier in the state of Texas for integral color. "We have a clean, easy-to-use powder system that we batch at every store," she says. "We can match colors."
The customer base of Decorative Concrete Supply consists mainly of concrete contractors. "There are some do-it-yourself customers, and we can give them guidance," says Kim, "but for the most part, we pass along the contact information of contractors to them."
Scott is the technical force behind the company, conducting the training sessions and designing the stores. As for Kim's role, she says, "I do just about everything, from counter sales to running the forklift." Their two daughters also work with the company.
Their older daughter is now head of purchasing and marketing, while their younger daughter works part time while attending college.
Two decades into growing their business, Scott and Kim Creager have slightly different pieces of advice for other store owners, advice that builds on their own strengths within the company. "Make customer service your priority," Kim says.
"Make sure your staff is knowledgeable about the products. If you make your store a place customers want to come, it makes all the difference."
Agreeing with Kim, Scott says, "I'd add one other thing. Product availability. Most of our contractor clients are small, and they work day to day and don't think two weeks down the road. You've got to have the products they need when they need it."
Which, he notes, is how his whole business got started.