Brad and Jeannie Wildin’s County Seat Decorating Center, just celebrated 35 years of business, and has gone through many changes since purchasing the business in 1978 from Walt Oelschlager.
“When we started out, we had a small business loan,” Jeannie said. “We had to learn to live creatively.”
County Seat began as a furniture store that also sold electronics, TV sets, and floor coverings, and that rented movies.
Customers used to buy earth tone, velvet, floral pattern sofas and formal dining sets with matching china hutches.
“About 1982 we started to feel the pinch of the recession,” Jeannie said. “With furniture, all our showroom space was tied up in inventory.”
In 1984, the Wildins decided to liquidate their furniture stock and focus on Zenith products and floor covering.
“We added movie rentals to help sell the VCRs. Customers could rent the machine along with the movies, and many decided to just buy the machine, too. We sold a lot.”
They used to sell VCRs for $400 to $500. In 1988, Wal-Mart began to sell Zenith products, and the Wildins decided to discontinue selling them.
In 1989, a Hillsboro business, Quick Flick, moved across the street from County Seat.
“It diluted the market,” Jeannie said. “Our movie rentals were cut in half. But Quick Flick’s owners were not seeing the sales desired.”
Jeannie and Brad recognized an opportunity to modify their business strategy. They decided to approach the owners of Quick Flick with a proposal to merge their services.
“It took a lot of guts, but it worked out great for both of us,” Jeannie said. “We provided the building and the employees. They provided the stock.”
Their decision provided a working relationship that lasted until the store’s next big change.
In 2007, County Seat had a steady stream of business with floor covering, but movie rentals were falling off because of pay-per-view, Netflix, the Internet, and other movie-viewing media.
The Wildin’s reorganized their sales floor and featured hard- surface items such as wood and ceramics.
“By removing all the movies, we were able to feature something new and even change what our customers were interested in,” Jeannie said. “People used to put carpet on everything except bathrooms and kitchens. Now the trend is large tiles and wood floors.”
The Wildin’s recognized that their customers wanted durable products that looked nice, provided a sense of luxury, and were easy to clean.
Now there are carpets that are nearly stain proof and luxury vinyl that looks like tile, wood, and stone but is much easier to install.
“We also noticed customers order a lot of solid surface, granite, and quartz counter tops as opposed to the laminates like Formica,” Jeannie said.
In the last ten years, County Seat customers also have become more interested in custom designed bathrooms, kitchens, and fireplaces.
Jeannie said that popular do-it your-self cable shows are partially responsible for the trend in custom designs.
“People see things that they love, and it inspires them to upgrade their home,” Jeannie said. “They come to us if they cannot do it themselves.”