SummerHouse Ridgeland, MS
Interview with Lisa Palmer of Summerhouse
When did you open your store?
LP: I opened the current SummerHouse in 2005. In 2003, I started a much smaller boutique style 1000 sq. ft. shop that, unfortunately sustained a devastating fire. SummerHouse is now a 9000 sq. ft. light filled and open showroom with a mezzanine level that houses our library and office spaces. The entire front of the space is all windows that allow for fabulous natural light. We love it!
How did you get started in the business?
LP: I graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in Interior Design and worked as an associate in a couple of firms. It didn’t take long for me to realize that entrepreneurship was in my blood. I was also having trouble finding furnishings for my projects that met the needs of my more soft modern style in this southern traditional market.
What do you love about owning a shop?
LP: I love my staff! It truly is a family, and working with a team and AS a team is what motivates me daily. Working in retail has it’s challenges, no doubt, but when you love interacting with creative people every day and giving your customers the best service that you can, it really doesn’t feel like work!
Tell us a little about your team members:
LP: My staff is like family to me, as I’ve said before. We are very close. You have to be when you work as much as we do! We make sure to celebrate every birthday with wine and cupcakes and a handmade card signed by everyone. When we have really good high-number months, I will throw them a party or take them all out for a nice dinner. I have 14 staff members here at the store location, and at my distribution center I have my manager and his assistant, along with 2 of the best delivery men this side of the Mississippi!
What is the importance of customer service?
LP: SummerHouse is going on it’s 9th year and I can say that we weathered the bad economy and keep growing our numbers, in staff and in sales. One of the main reasons is our exceptional level of client service. It is important to have great product and a beautiful showroom. But you cannot grow a business without great client service. You will fail. Plain and simple. You have to manage your staff with a positive attitude. It starts at the top and they have to know how important client service is to you and the business. It is paramount! The old adage that the customer is always right still holds firm.
SummerHouse is known for furnishings in light natural fabrics, unfussy clean lines, soft modern pieces mixed with reclaimed woods, antique rugs, and original art, both modern and not so modern. But SummerHouse is probably known mostly for our talented design staff. It is so important to us that our clients receive the best in client service and we work hard to uncover the needs of each client to achieve the end result they are looking for, whether it is a small or large project.
Do you have any favorite pieces in the store right now?
LP: Anything in LEE Industries Zora Chocolate. I am into dark and moody right now and this black and brown hide is gorgeous!
What is something you have learned in the business that you didn’t expect?
LP: I suppose I expected to spend most all of my time working after opening the store, but what I didn’t expect was how much I actually think about the projects I work on! I have to consciously “turn it off” when I’m with my husband and children. I’ve learned how important that really is. Also, what I didn’t expect is the pride I feel when I speak of my business and my staff. It overwhelms me sometimes.
How are things different now than when you started your business, and how are you seeing the industry changing?
LP: I am AMAZED at how important social media has emerged as a marketing tool in the world of design! I hired a social media director a year and a half ago who manages our blog, Twitter, Tumbler, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Houzz. I’m sure we only scratch the surface at what it really can do for my business and yet we tackle it pretty hard.
What inspires you?
LP: I’m inspired by design blogs, magazines, fabrics, and Pinterest.
Don’t stress when entertaining! Your friends would never want you to! We are much more casual than our parents were. And besides, if you aren’t good at it, and can afford it, there are always people that would LOVE to put it all together for you!
Lisa’s Local Love
I love Babalu Tacos and Tapas restaurant in our historic Fondren district. They have I Love Lucy reels playing on the wall, and the atmosphere is hip and loud! The guacamole and homemade chips are incredible and I could literally live on it! That, along with a good Argentine Malbec, and I’m set!