Posts Tagged ‘high-end fixtures’
Remember that profile piece I was working on? I think I referenced it a few weeks back. Anyway, I wrote a profile piece about Susan MacMillan and her business, Fixtures, and sent it to a publication’s editors for consideration.
While they are intrigued by the subject and are considering featuring Susan in some form or another, they would prefer to assign one of their contracted writers who knows their specific style to do the piece.
Now, I’m trying my very best not to be angry or bitter or flat-out depressed but it’s difficult at times. I got the news last Friday and every time I see the email in my inbox it stings a little. It has taken all I have to try and block out how great it felt when I was done with it and the gushing sense of pride and confidence that came along with it.
At the same time, I’m trying to remind myself that I should embrace that sense of accomplishment I felt after writing it. Just because the story isn’t going to be published does not mean I shouldn’t be proud of it, right?
It also GREATLY helps that Susan has been so supportive and this endeavor has strengthened our relationship and created potential future business opportunities.
Today, I sat down stared at the email. Read it and reread it. Then I set out to write a response. Sure it would have been easier to just delete it and forget about the whole thing, but I was taught to be better then that. To have a sense of etiquette and class even when you’re not getting what you want.
Further, at the end of the day, I understand the editor’s decision. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but now, I’m not an editor of a successful magazine am I? The publication has a reputation to uphold and they are set in their ways. While I think it wouldn’t hurt to give other writers a try and branch out in style, that is not the trend of the magazine and ultimately, I do respect that.
Anyway, while my blog is not the outlet I was aiming for, it is still a place to share my writing. Below you will find the profile piece I wrote. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Not Just a Toilet
It is 9 am on a Monday morning and I am meeting Susan MacMillan, owner of Fixtures…Designer Plumbing Showroom, a high end plumbing fixtures business, at Becky’s Diner. She is just arriving to Portland in her BMW wagon from St. George, the place she calls home about 90 miles away. Taking off her overcoat and sliding into the red vinyl booths at Becky’s, Susan is put together wearing a stylish dress, tights and boots. She orders coffee and one poached egg. Before we start she excuses herself and answers a phone call from a client.
“Oh! Black garnish, really?” Grimaces Susan. “Eww, I’ve never seen that. But yeah! We can get you the parts, I don’t care if you bought it from me or not.”
This brief moment epitomizes Susan. A woman committed to class and dedication to customer service and design, yet a true Mainer who can call the atmosphere at Becky’s home.
Susan pays the utmost attention to detail. Whether it’s her outfit, her state-of-the-art showrooms, now in Portland and Rockland, one of the properties she has renovated, or how her daughters’ college dorm room is set up, aspects of design go into her every move.
“I’ve built [Fixtures] all around customer service,” says Susan. “I’m very, very customer service oriented. That’s what sets us apart from really any other business.”
Susan takes pride in her high end plumbing fixtures showrooms but is humble about all there is to learn. She recently went on a design venture to Paris, France where she exposed herself to design outside the “plumbing world.”
“In order for us to be successful,” says Susan. “We need that broader based design knowledge that customers can’t get somewhere else. When we are looking at tile, when we are looking at light, we can give that educated experience. It’s not just a faucet or a toilet.”
Why designer plumbing fixtures?
Twenty-two years ago in 1990, she and her husband, Andy, started AM Plumbing & Heating, Inc, a plumbing company based out of Portland, that later moved to Rockland. Andy is namely responsible for the plumbing company.
“When we wrote the business plan 20 years ago for AM Plumbing, I had a high end show room in mind,” said Susan. “The idea was that when it got close to ‘retirement age,’ I would open a designer plumber show room, leave my career and start a new one with Andy that would allow me to focus on what I loved doing- design. It just happened earlier.”
Eight years ago her youngest daughter, Emily, was diagnosed with type one diabetes. Susan made the choice to leave her marketing career and open the high end plumbing fixtures show room she had planned for retirement.
“I always wanted to focus on design someday,” said Susan, who graduated with a Bachelors in business administration and a minor in marketing from USM in 1992. “I loved design.”
True to her nature, Susan rolled with the punches, and decided to turn the space she and Andy had recently bought in 2002, the old American Legion Hall on Maverick Street in Rockland, into Fixtures…Designer Plumbing Showroom.
“We renovated the whole building,” explains Susan. “There were 20 layers of cigarette smoke, but really great charm to the building.”
With Andy’s “plumbing talents” they were able to install 20 working shower heads, 8 working sinks and a Whirlpool tub in the elegant space that was once the bar where the old, class-act, blue collar men of the midcoast would mingle under clouds of smoke.
That year, Susan and Andy were awarded a Commercial Building Expansion award from the Rockland/ Thomaston area Chamber of Commerce for the renovation of the legion hall.
This was not the first property she and Andy had ever renovated. In 1992 they started AM Properties LLC with the intention of buying and remodeling old properties before releasing them out into the high end rental market.
As well as the showroom renovations Susan and Andy have done, they have also acquired commercial, residential and vacation rentals throughout the midcoast Maine area, Portland and Florida. Susan attributes much of her design knowledge from the remodeling work she’s done with these properties.
They bought their first property in 1993 in Rockland while they were still living in Portland.
“We had no plans to move there,” says Susan. “Business wise, we started to pick up more property there.”
Around the same time, they bought two houses as well as a building “compound” on Atlantic Street once owned by Standard Oil Co. Both Susan and Andy have a talented eye for seeing the possibility of a space, as was evident when, much to their daughter’s, Alex and Emily, excitement, they dreamed up the idea of putting a pool in where the old oil storage tanks were previously located.
“Business was growing there,” says Susan. “I was offered a position as Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce for the Rockland/ Thomaston area. It seemed like it made sense to move back to where Andy was from, I had always vacationed there too.”
In 2000, the MacMillans moved to their new renovated “compound” on Atlantic Street.
“The building market was just beginning to take off,” Susan recalls. “The real estate bubble was happening then. Everyone was buying, everyone was building. That change coincided with the bust in the housing and mortgage bubble.”
Susan talks about the need for a showroom in the Rockland area that focused on a high end market and attributes much of her continued success in the down economy to her target market.
“The last four years have just been a struggle in the sense of when you compare it to the first four years, you opened your doors and you instantly had business,” explains Susan. “Fortunately we had those years to build up a reputation….there’s still work happening, still people who have money, still renovating.”
At the end of 2011, Susan decided to bring her talents back to the larger market area of Portland. Her second showroom started in conditions that had 180’d compared to her first showroom.
“I figured it’s a good time to expand- in a down market,” explains Susan of her move. “I could position myself and build up my reputation and customer base and then when things pick up, we will have already been established.”
Lucky for Susan, her eldest daughter, Alex, had just graduated with a bachelors degree in Art and Art History from St. Michael’s College in Vermont and was moving to Portland just as the showroom was coming about.
“I can remember Alex playing in my home office pretending she was me talking on the phone with my glasses on,” Susan reminisces, smiling. “She learned how to talk to people, how to listen to people, and she also really cares about doing a good job no matter what, which is the basics of customer service. I’m so lucky to have her.”
Susan does not necessarily have hopes to turn Fixtures into a family business, though her youngest daughter is going to be assisting her mom in the Rockland showroom and her sister in the Portland showroom over her college summer break.
“My goal for my daughters is to develop the skills and knowledge base to work in any other company or develop their own businesses,” says Susan of her daughters who are learning the back office management as well as customer service skills from their mother. “They are very strong, independent, intelligent young women. This is just another tool for them later in life.”
Loyal and dedicated, as Maine girls go, Susan has conquered the world of business and design while always putting her family first. She is not afraid to put on paint-stained jeans and tear down walls or bump elbows with high end designers in Paris, she’s mastered a balance to life, that oozes with design intelligence.