Store Manager Gary Aitken is pictured with owners Daniel and Tracy Ainslie of Heartland Homestore in Sturgis SD
By Andy Kriege, YSN
Tracy and Daniel Ainslie started their business just under a year ago in an old T-shirt shop in Sturgis, S.D., a town known more for the roar of Harley Davidson engines than boutique retail stores with a flair for design.
Being new to the appliance and mattress business, they were eager to soak up every bit of information they could at the BrandSource Summit held earlier this year. There was one educational session in particular that clicked with Tracy’s creative spirit and inspired her to go home and make some changes.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, here’s a little background on the Ainslies and their new store …
Tracy and her husband Daniel opened Heartland Home Store last summer along with longtime friend and associate Gary Aitken, who serves as the store’s GM. The Ainslies felt there was a need for an appliance and mattress store in Sturgis, where people were forced to drive outside the community to find those products. It was important to both that the people of the area could buy local and keep their dollars in the community, where Daniel serves as the city manager.
“People are determined to shop local and we strive to make them happy,” Tracy said. “Even with the recent slow shipments, our excellent service has won them over.”
The keep-it-local theme continued with their decision to carry Whirlpool exclusively, primarily because the products are almost entirely assembled in the U.S.
In addition to appliances and mattresses, the company sells linens and small crafts. Tracy designed the store to make it more of a unique, local boutique destination and less of a generic box store, aiming for a softer more comfortable environment to make the experience more enjoyable.
At the Summit, the Ainslies attended “Creating a Profitable Retail Environment,” a seminar conducted by Lyn Falk, President of the RetailWorks design consultancy in Milwaukee Wis. The topic of enhancing the in-store experience has been a focus for many dealers in recent months following last year’s AVB Store Makeover: Store Edition contest and the AVB Makeover Manual, a how-to guide that Falk collaborated on and which was sent to all members last fall.
Falk herself has devoted the past 30 years to teaching and helping retailers create purposeful and productive spaces that move hearts, minds and merchandise. Her Summit session was packed with information on a wide range of subjects, including storefront design, store layout, merchandising and displays, lighting, fixtures and signage. But it was the design elements of Falk’s seminar that inspired Tracy to enhance the look of their store.
“Loved the Summit, Lyn Falk in particular,” Tracy recounted. “I could have listened to her speak for hours. She guided me to a retail design approach I could implement at our store.”
Heartland’s paint and design scheme reflects some of the elements she took from Falk’s presentation. The colors Tracy chose for her showroom — three different shades of blue-grey — “are intended to put people at ease, to make them comfortable so they will relax and take their time,” she said. “Particularly by the mattresses, so they can immerse themselves in the experience and appreciate the comfort.”
Tracy also employs a sage green in areas where she wants to grab customers’ attention, including the store entrance and on a U.S. map mural adjacent to the mattresses. The mural is a design concept she borrowed from the Whirlpool display at the Summit, and serves as a focal point for the showroom while underscoring the Ainslies’ support for local community jobs and American-made products. The colors, she said, go well with stainless steel appliances and make them “pop” when you walk in.
Tracy has also leveraged some additional creative skills and answered her community calling by creating decorative safety face masks for local residents. In addition, her love for the Black Hills inspired her to build her own handmade wooden shelving and magazine racks in the shapes of some of the area’s native species.
In their first year in business the Anslies have exceeded their sales projections as well as their expectations. They feel blessed by how the people of Sturgis have embraced them and their new endeavor, are hopeful for the future, and are grateful for the support BrandSource has provided.
BrandSource is a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc.