Custom Home Furniture Galleries: Two brothers created a long-standing furniture business based on loyalty and quality service
For John and Kevin Gray, brothers and co-owners of Custom Home Furnishings, starting a furniture business together was a no-brainer.
“It was easy because we were tired of making money for everybody else,” Kevin says with a laugh. “It made sense doing it ourselves.”
With backgrounds in furniture retail and wholesale, the Gray brothers opened their custom furniture store 23 years ago with the goal to provide affordable pricing and outstanding service to customers.
Born and raised in Wilmington, John and Kevin received their degrees in communications from UNCW, but found opportunities in the furniture business along the way.
During college Kevin worked at a furniture store, which sparked his interest in the business. From there he worked as a sales rep with a national 100-year old company selling to furniture stores for the next six years after graduating. Gaining experience from wholesale, Kevin then managed a furniture retail store for two and half years.
John interned with a local furniture firm while attending college and continued working there for a few years after college before selling commercial healthcare office furniture.
Getting started in a 6,000 square foot space on Market Street, the brothers dove head first into their business, committed to working hard. “Thirteen days working and one day off, that’s how it was,” John says about their first few weeks in business. Kevin adds, “We did what we had to in order to make it.”
During their first five years the business grew from their first location to a bigger location on Market Street. The growth continued, and in 2008 the brothers moved into their current 50,000 square foot showroom on College Road and opened Custom Home Furniture Galleries.
John and Kevin attribute their successful growth throughout the years to their loyal customers. From the start their customers encouraged Custom Home to keep adding on to their product line and would refer the business to family and friends. John shares that recently he met a customer whose entire house was furnished with their products, and often he receives emails and phone calls from customers praising their sales and delivery staff. “It’s nice to hear the good things from customers,” he says.
“We want to treat people the way we want to be treated,” John continues. “We want to see people out and about and hear those stories.” Committed to this business philosophy, the brothers have created a venture that puts the customer first and provides them with the best quality service from the showroom to the design and delivery.
“We want people to perceive our business as very welcoming, not overwhelming, not aggressive and pushy,” Kevin says about the low-pressure sales staff that will take their time with customers to find the best fit and design for them.
Keeping up with the growth of their customer base and the Wilmington area along with finding quality employees has been the biggest challenge for the two brothers. While they have high standards for their employees, John and Kevin take pride in the people who work alongside them.
“We have the best staff in the region,” John says of their more than 50 employees. “We’re very proud of our staff and who works for us.” With very little turnover and some staff having been with Custom Home for 15 or 20 years, John says it all goes back to their business philosophy. Giving their staff a great working environment, benefits, and time off, the brothers find it rewarding to be able to provide for their employees.
New ventures beyond Custom Home Furniture Gallery for John, Kevin, and their families
With their expertly trained employees and faithful customers, John and Kevin have been able to keep adding on to their business. Four years ago they opened Custom Home Staging and Design led by Julie Crouch. Julie works as a designer with customers and provides in-home consultations as well as stages homes for real estate resales, builder models, and individuals.
Custom Home’s most recent venture is niche. Décor and Gifts that opened its doors this May in the Hanover Center at 3501 Oleander Drive. Kevins wife Chris Gray and her friend DeDe Bennett run the exclusive Bramble furniture store that features beautiful gifts and décor and even offers free coffee and cookies.
Overall, the most gratifying thing for the Gray brothers has been the opportunity to give back to others by providing for their employees, serving their customers, and being stewards in the community. “Being able to help other people, that’s been rewarding for us,” Kevin says.
Custom Home Furniture Galleries is located at 3514 South College Road in Wilmington. For store hours and more information about how Custom Home can help you furnish your entire home visit shopcustomhome.com or call 910-799-4010.
Learn more about Custom Home Furniture Galleries
by Olivia Bardella