Created around an ethos of being design-led, ethical and local, Three River Kitchens has settled into serving its community of Chelmsford after just six months of opening
With a name that represents its Chelmsford location – built on the banks of the Chelmer, Can and Wid – Three River Kitchens is entrenched in the neighbourhood, after just six months of opening.
Established by a trio of directors from the city, the focus on community permeates the business.
Creative director Andy Poole explains the company makes a donation to the Mayor of Chelmsford charities for every job it completes, adding: “The wine we served on our launch night and what we give to clients when their job is finished all comes from New Hall vineyard, which is just up the road”.
He continues: “There are too many businesses that don’t care about being part of the local culture. We feel like we’re embedded in it.”
Part of community
Certainly, the community seems to have embraced the business, as Three River Kitchens has quoted 16 projects since Christmas.
Andy Poole explains its positioning in the market has helped its success: “We are in a market which is less affected by the current economic situation. The jobs we do average around £40,000-£50,000.”
But he adds the business may have also filled a gap in the market: “Since [independent kitchen retailer] Nicholas Anthony moved out of the city, there’s not really been anybody serving the higher end of the market in Chelmsford.”
Starting a business
However, it has been a journey for the three directors Iain Large, Gordon Long and Andy Poole to establish the retail business.
Iain and Gordon originally looked at buying a building, which came with a kitchen showroom.
However, they decided to take another path. With around 60 years’ combined experience in interior design, architecture, furnishings and construction, the trio decided to utilise their skillsets and open their own kitchen showroom.
“We thought why not just do it properly ourselves – rather than buying a business and trying to turn that into what we want it to be?” says Andy.
Within a month, they found the current business location, a former coffee shop, which operations director Iain Large describes as having “very little work to the structure”.
Andy elucidates: “We’re talking bare concrete walls and soil pipes from the flats above. If somebody flushed a toilet you could hear it.”
However, they were seeking a space to renovate, so Andy adds: “For us it was perfect and the fact it opened up with a larger section at the back, felt like a journey for the customer.”
Having chosen Pronorm because Andy exclaims its range accommodates budgets from £25,000 up to £130,000, he says: “I was a little bit concerned we wouldn’t be able to get it because of a Pronorm Showroom in Colchester.
“But Pronorm’s view was they don’t have anyone in the central Essex region.”
And he chose Miele as its main appliance brand but also supplies BSH Group appliances “because every man and his dog wants a Neff oven with a slide & hide door”, Andy adds.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, he says appliances were the biggest challenge in setting up the showroom: “Nailing it down and getting the stuff that we actually wanted was tricky and we’re still not there.”
Andy adds: “Our wine cooler has only just arrived, so that’s got to get swapped over”, and continues “We’ve still got the entry-level Miele ovens on display instead of the ones we wanted because they didn’t have them when we opened.”
However, he explains Miele offered great support with the appliances and stated they would supply the models they wanted when they become available.
Following a fit out over just two months, the showroom opened its doors. And Three River Kitchens even sold two projects before the space was completed.
The showroom features Andy’s electric guitar and drawing board, adding character to the business, and further imbuing its design competence.
“I’m a designer, not a sales guy, just trying to wrangle some money out of you. We’re an ethical business – we don’t knock off 20% off so consumers sign before they leave – and we work with local firms where we can”, explains Andy.
Its proficiency in kitchen design and serving the needs of consumers has further been cemented by becoming a foundation member of trade association the Kbsa.
“For me, it adds credibility, security for the customer and it’s a conveyance of your professionalism”, says Andy.
So who are its customers and how do they find the business? Andy is a staunch beliver that “everyone is a customer.”
He tells the story “We had a couple walk through the door who said ‘we’re on our way to have dinner with friends, we live in Jersey and we’re just doing our kitchen at the moment.
“We’ve already got somebody doing it and just want to have a look around’. I gave them advice and they ended up buying lights from us.
“Their friends, who live locally, came in two days’ ago and we’re going to measure up for a kitchen next week.”
So, business has comes through passers-by as well as ad campaigns on Google and Facebook, as operations director Iain Large adds: “I would love it, if they would follow the path I’ve dictated through the website, so we could track exactly where they are coming from”, laughing, “We’ve stopped short of demanding answers.”
However, Andy adds: “What actually brings consumers in is what they see when they click on that ad – the way you’re presenting yourself, how you explain what you do and the quality of your work.”
And the type of work Three River Kitchens undertakes are turnkey solutions, managing the whole process.
Andy questions kitchen retailers who leave their consumers to find and pay their own tradespeople, “it places a lot of burden on them.”
And he suggests it can also prove costly for a kitchen retailer if they don’t project manage and schedule in their own or sub-contracted trades, as a broken link in the chain could disrupt the entire process.
Now the Three River Kitchens has got one eye on growth, with a view to expanding its four-strong team, which also includes an installation manager.
The company is planning to hire an apprentice designer and an apprentice fitter. “If we can support somebody who needs a job and has genuine enthusiasm, that’s a wonderful thing. It would be nice to give back in that way,” exclaims Andy.
So is Three River Kitchens, what he thought it would be? Andy exclaims “the way we are servicing customers is exactly how I thought it would be”, admitting “it’s just all been much harder work than expected.”
He states his measure of success, will be someone saying: “I’m proud to have worked with, for or brought from Three River Kitchens and if they do that, we’ve done the job right.”