Cream of the crop: Apollo Award nominees rise to the top

Recognizing retail excellence and outstanding accomplishments, the International Casual Furnishings Assn. presents this year’s best-in-class retailers, nominated by their industry peers for their savvy merchandising, strong operations and commitment to their customers. And all during a time of inventory issues and supply chain challenges.

Each finalist in this year’s group of nominees — made up of single-store operations and multi-store retailers —have proven to be role model for others in the industry, demonstrating there are many paths to achieving success.

American Casual Living: Creative, fun solutions

Lee and Maureen Recchia founded American Casual Living in January 2009.

The Buford, Ga.-based store’s friendly, knowledgeable sales staff combines over 100 years of experience in the outdoor furniture industry with thoughtful creativity and focused personal attention to help customers create comfortable, year-round outdoor living areas for family fun, entertaining friends or quiet enjoyment and relaxation.

An anchoring strength of the company is that the owners, too, are consumers. They seek value not only in everything they buy personally, but also in the products offered by American Casual Living.

The company strives to ensure customer visits are productive, satisfying and memorable experiences that are shared with families, friends, neighbors and anyone else they influence.

Key lines carried are Telescope Casual Furniture, Lloyd Flanders, O.W. Lee, Winston, Tropitone, NorthCape, Patio Renaissance, Gensun, Jensen Outdoor, Lane Venture, Ebel, Woodard, Berlin Gardens, Polywood, Treasure Garden, Frankford Umbrellas, Castelle, Alfresco Home, Lexington Home Brands and Saber Grills.

Fire House Casual Living: Delivering on promises

Fire House Casual Living Store is the largest outdoor furnishings retailer in the Carolinas with a vast selection of top-quality and specialty items for the patio and fireplace. Owner Grant Henegan acquired the almost-40-year-old business in 2016 with a focus on ambition and growth.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based business is known for its original thinkers, a group of design-savvy, energetic individuals who believe great companies are built with great people who can deliver on promises to customers, vendors and the team. As a true omnichannel operator, the company believes its competitive advantage is the combination of its physical locations and its highly skilled, design-driven sales associates.

The assortment features top brands, which are consistently featured in Architectural Digest, Luxe Interiors + Design, Elle Decor and other regional and national shelter magazines. Lines include Brown Jordan, Castelle, Woodard, Telescope Casual Furniture and Lloyd Flanders, as well as a proprietary brand with frames made to specification in Asia and upholstery produced at a partner factory in Fort Mill, S.C.

Gasper Home & Garden: Focused on best of best

Located in Richboro, Pa., in the heart of picturesque Bucks County, Gasper Home & Garden Showplace and the Exterior Furniture Gallery are dedicated to bringing the best of the best to homes and gardens everywhere. Founded in 1994 by Paula and Robert Gasper, the retailer features plants, garden décor and accessories, and a hardscape and landscape division in addition to a wide range of casual furnishings. With over 200 employees and staff, Gasper is large enough to provide for all its clients’ needs yet remains small enough to care.

The Exterior Furniture Gallery has seen remarkable and sustained growth since casual furniture veteran Eli Hymer joined the company in 2018. Hymer has built an environment second to none by teaming up with the best manufacturers and providing the best customer service with his team of knowledgeable staff members. Gasper also works in tandem with local design professionals through its designer incentive program.

Gasper Home & Garden Showplace has extended its outreach by creating the Gasper Furniture Book. Reaching an audience of nearly 200,000 homes, the publication is a showcase for the many outstanding manufacturers carried by Gasper. The retailer also includes an “Ask Eli” Q&A blog on its website and a social media video campaign featuring “Design Tips” as part of its outdoor furniture marketing efforts.

Gasper’s mix of brands includes Alfresco Home, Barlow Tyrie, Bernhardt Exteriors, Breezesta, Cabana Coast, California Umbrella, Castelle, Casual Cushion, Classic Cushion, DWL, Ebel, Elaine Smith, Frankford Umbrella, Gensun, Jensen Outdoor, Kingsley Bate, Klaussner Outdoor, Lane Venture, Lloyd Flanders, Neille Olsen Designs, Patio Renaissance, Peak Season, Seaside Casual, Telescope Casual Furniture, Three Coins Cast, Treasure Garden, Woodard and Woodline Shade Solutions.

Patios Plus: Delivering inspiration and joy

Rancho Mirage-based Patios Plus is located in the Southern California desert just outside of Palm Springs, a unique environment of second homes that exemplify the best of outdoor living. The area’s architecture ranges from mid-century, Spanish hacienda, to clean contemporary with high-end interiors. The 10,000-square-foot showroom is led by Kristine Schultz and Amanda Smith. Jim Schultz, an integral part of Patios Plus history, has been enjoying retirement since 2015.

Throughout the pandemic, the store’s philosophy regarding customer service and brand image did not change but rather stepped up. Adding inventory orders every week provided a strong amount of stock options. The team maintained ongoing communication with special-order clients as well as made daily floor changes to keep the store looking fresh with product from Brown Jordan, Dedon, Gloster, O.W. Lee, Barlow Tyrie, Kannoa, Patio Renaissance, Janus et Cie, Tropitone, Lloyd Flanders, Summer Classics, Treasure Garden, TUUCI, Big Green Egg and Elaine Smith.

Community support increased as Patios Plus got involved with FineFoodBank, a GoFundMe campaign created for local restaurant workers and several animal shelters seeing an influx of abandoned animals. The company also has long supported City of Hope as its charity of choice with the International Casual Furniture Assn., transforming the future of health for all.

At the height of the pandemic, when families were told to stay home and travel was not essential, home and patio spaces became even more essential. Through advertising and displays, Patios Plus offered clients inspiration for creating serene spaces and private vacation spots outside their back doors. Employees took pride in coming to work and bringing a little joy into lives fraught with anxiety and fear.

Porch & Patio Casual Living: Pride plus performance

Porch & Patio Casual Living was founded in 1978 by the Singman family as a manufacturer and retailer of PVC furniture. The business thrived for many years supplying specialty stores throughout the East Coast. As the casual furniture industry grew, Porch & Patio opened a large retail store for its own products along with other categories such as aluminum, iron, wood and wicker.

Today, Porch & Patio operates a 20,000-square-foot headquarters showroom in Warwick, R.I., plus a 7,500-square-foot satellite store in Mystic, Conn. The company takes pride in the quality products and exceptional customer service it provides to customers.

Lines carried by Porch & Patio Casual Living include Berlin Gardens, Breezesta, Cape May, Classic Cushion, Custom Craft, Daybreak, Ebel, Galtech, Gensun, Hanamint, Homecrest, Jensen Outdoor, Kettler, Kingsley Bate, KNF Design, Lloyd Flanders, Outdoor GreatRoom, Patio Renaissance, Polywood, Ratana, Royal Teak, Telescope Casual Furniture, Treasure Garden, TUUCI, Windward Design, Winston and Woodard as well as a wide variety of accessories.

Rich’s for the Home: Customers always come first

“Always put yourself in your customer’s shoes.”

That’s the philosophy Larry and Marianne Chapman have embraced since Dec. 7, 1979, when they opened a modest woodstove showroom near Seattle. The showroom grew quickly to a second and third location. In 1982, Rich’s for the Home added outdoor furniture as well as hot tubs and gourmet outdoor grills.

As the company expanded, the owners and their team put in long hours, providing excellent care to everyone. Today, Rich’s has over 100 employees and subcontractors, treating them as family. Many are second- and third-generation employees from the same families. Vendors also are treated as valued partners.

Based in Lynnwood, Wash., Rich’s for the Home now has six spacious Puget Sound showrooms, with over 50,000 square feet of luxury outdoor furnishings. Rich’s is a Northwest leader in offering products for the home that bring people together. Key lines include Tropitone, Ebel, Jensen Outdoor, Homecrest, Sunvilla, O.W. Lee, Telescope Casual Furniture, Treasure Garden, Gensun and Patio Renaissance.

Today’s Patio: Creating an exceptional experience

Today’s Patio was founded in 1979 and operates seven retail locations in Arizona and California.

Based in Scottsdale, Ariz., Today’s Patio focuses on creating an exceptional customer experience from the moment the customer walks in the door to the final delivery at their home. Today’s Patio focuses its product selection on a good, better, best model. The company strives to have a broad selection of upscale patio furniture that can fit many budgets while maintaining a high level of quality. Today’s Patio not only offers a large variety of patio furniture in aluminum, iron, wicker and teak but also can help create an entire outdoor living space with umbrellas, pillows, accessories and rugs to complete the space.

Principles are Chad, Henry and Craig Scheinerman.

Lines carried include Mallin, Tropitone, O.W. Lee, Ebel, Treasure Garden, TUUCI, Sunvilla, NorthCape, Brown Jordan, Castelle, Hanamint, Agio, Ratana, Woodard and Barlow Tyrie.

Village Green: Destination for ideas and inspiration

Village Green Home and Garden was established in 1964 by the late Larry Smith and Bill Swadley. Over the past 57 years, Village Green has evolved from a tiny and humble garden center to a destination outdoor lifestyle center. The nine-acre campus features the largest selection of outdoor furniture in the Midwest, an indoor furniture gallery and a holiday wonderland. The retailer proudly grows 70% of all plant material sold.

Located in Rockford, Ill., Village Green is committed to helping customers make the spaces in their home more beautiful. The goal is to inspire the customer to make their home the perfect expression of their own personality, both indoor and outdoor.

Village Green is owned by Carolyn and Cindy Smith, daughters of Larry Smith, and operated by Jessica Salisbury, CEO and creative director, along with a loyal and talented team. The company’s mission, it says, is to continue the great legacy of co-founder Larry Smith.

Brands carried include Tropitone, Winston, O.W. Lee, Patio Renaissance, Homecrest, Hanamint, West of the Wind, Polywood, Telescope Casual Furniture, Casual Cushion, NorthCape, Treasure Garden, Lloyd Flanders, Nardi and Breezesta.

Villa Terrazza Patio: Expert design guidance

Villa Terrazza Patio & Home was created by Michael Robertori and Theresa Deere in 2005. After a 15-year career in in information technology, Mike retired from the corporate world and started a warehouse-based teak furniture business. A few years later, Robertori met Deere and the two entrepreneurs combined their talents to open what has grown to become one of the San Francisco Bay’s premier outdoor specialty retailers.

Catering to an upscale residential and commercial clientele, Sonoma-based Villa Terrazza offers superior customer service and expert design guidance. A dedicated team of design professionals collaborate with clients to ensure the result lives up to the company’s tagline: “Furnishing Your Escape!”

Lines represented include TUUCI, O.W. Lee, Brown Jordan, Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, Gloster, Lloyd Flanders, Tropitone, Summer Classics, Barlow Tyrie, Jensen Outdoor, Berlin Gardens, Mamagreen, Kingsley Bate, Les Jardins, Treasure Garden, Patio Renaissance, Regency Fireplace Products, Alfresco Grills, True Manufacturing, Loll Designs and Elaine Smith.

Watson’s: Selection, service and savings

Since 1968, Watson’s has grown a pool store in Cincinnati to the Midwest’s premier indoor/outdoor home lifestyle center, with indoor furnishings, outdoor furnishings, home recreation and pool and spa supplies all under one roof.

The brand now consists of 13 stores (including franchise and affiliate franchise locations) with over 500,000 square feet of selling space featuring leading vendors like Patio Renaissance, Plank & Hide, Lloyd Flanders, Castelle, Summer Classics, Tommy Bahama Outdoor and more.

The company’s mission is to bring families together for fun, relaxation and a break from the stress of daily life. The vision is to bring creativity to the recreational and leisure industry, providing leadership with cutting edge products, innovation and ideas along with world-class customer service and exceptional value.

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