A client-first culture
For Abbey Carpet’s Joyce Bradley, customer comfort is a top priority
By Karee Magee, NNY Business
For Joyce Bradley, co-owner of Abbey Carpet of Watertown, patience truly is a virtue, a lesson she’s learned over 30 years of working with customers
and managing changes.
Mrs. Bradley and her husband, Stephen, moved back to Watertown from Syracuse in 1986 to take over the shop-at-home carpet business when his father decided to retire. She took over the secretarial duties including bookkeeping and scheduling while her husband did installs and carpet cleaning.
Running a carpeting showroom was the last thing on her mind when they opened it in 1987 and became an Abbey Carpet franchise.
“It probably would’ve been the furthest thing from my mind,” she said. “Over time I’ve come to love being self-employed and flexible. It’s rewarding.”
It was about 10 years ago that she took over running the showroom while Mr. Bradley ran the installations, but she took the change head on by attending conferences and learning everything she could about flooring.
“I found I really liked that niche,” she said. “It’s nice to help someone with a project and make their home nicer.”
Mrs. Bradley is far from complacent, though. Knowledge about her products and her field isn’t taken for granted.
“You have to keep current with your product,” she said. “It takes time. I had to learn that. I’ve read a lot and try to keep up with the fashion trends.”
Mrs. Bradley said that knowledge sets their business apart from the big box stores because they know all of the products, they are able to determine the best type of flooring for a project and how to best install it.
She said national retail stores usually don’t always have employees familiar with the best way to measure or what the best product is to use.
Her knowledge, though, isn’t the only trait that set’s her business apart from the big box stores, said Dacia VanEenenaam, a long-time customer and friend.
“Not only is she hugely organized, but she is extremely patient,” Ms. VanEenenaam said. “She’s bright, capable and calm.”
Ms. VanEenenaam said that their friendship developed out of their business relationship over the past 19 years.
“Not only am I confident with them, but I’m comfortable with them in my home,” she said.
Ms. VanEenenaam said that she would even be comfortable with them installing a carpet when she was out.
It’s that comfort that Mrs. Bradley aspires to and the way she sees her own business.
“I see a retail store where someone can come and be comfortable,” she said “A relaxed atmosphere where they can buy materials to make their home more beautiful.”
Customer service is her top priority because Mrs. Bradley said it will reflect back on her.
“If they come here, they deal with me from start-to-finish,” she said. “I try not to be pushy. Sometimes it takes more than one time for a customer to come in and get the perfect fit.”
In order to better serve her customers, Mrs. Bradley said that being successful also involves embracing changes.
“You can’t change it, so it’s better to brace for it,” she said.
The biggest change for the store was the advent of computer technology, including electronic bookkeeping.
“I didn’t want to do it at first,” she said. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, but now I love it.”
She said it’s made a lot of her work easier like electronic pricing systems. That was a task that would have taken her a full day to do before.
The significant challenge, though, remains the recruitment and retention of adequate help, Mrs. Bradley said, and she hopes to bring in more people for installations.
Despite the ever-present challenges, though, she expects the business to keep growing and changing.
“There’s never a dull moment,” she said.
The Joyce Bradley file
Professional: Co-owner, Abbey Carpet of Watertown
Family: Husband, Stephen Bradley; daughters, Amber Bradley and Caitlyn Virkler; son, Matthew Bradley; three grandchildren
Education: Thousand Islands High School; associate degree, Central City Business Institute, Syracuse.
Community: Ambassador, Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce; Jefferson County Historical Society; Downtown Business Association.
Recommended Read: “Chicken Soup for the Grandparent’s Soul” by Hanoch McCarty, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Meladee McCarty.
Karee Magee is a magazine associate for NNY Magazines. Contact her at email@example.com or 661-2381.