Three years ago, when the recession started to bite, the owner of one builders’ supply store started to construct a new business.
Sacha Bearden, owner of Baptiste Ltd, realized she had to remodel and diversify to survive.
Baptiste Ltd was established in 1974 by her father Raymond Baptiste and specialized in building supplies, doors, windows, shutters, bathroom fixtures and tiling.
Now you can pick up anything from home décor to gardening equipment and candy, as the store targets the everyday consumer.
Ms Bearden said: “Our business was mostly contractor-driven and they used to pick up a truckload of windows and doors in a day, for what they needed for that day’s work.
“But that just doesn’t happen anymore.
“When the building boom ended we had to do something drastic because we couldn’t do business that way any longer. It was either change or sink.
“So, we are just not selling doors and windows any more.”
Entering the 7,000 sq ft store in Warwick, you can purchase electrical and lighting supplies, ceiling fans, barbecues, bathroom and kitchen accessories, tools and hardware.
Kitchen goods include coffee makers, wine ‘travellers’, pots and pans, plastic bins and cooking utensils.
The store even sells outdoor sushi tables, dog treats and alarm clocks.
There is a kitchen design section, featuring cabinets, sinks and faucets, and a Valspar Paint display where staff will mix up your chosen colours. Baptiste Ltd also cuts keys.
The expanded bathroom section features American Standard sinks, bath tubs and toilets plus other fixtures.
Ms Bearden bought Baptiste Ltd in 2008 when it was solely a building supply store.
Eighteen months ago, A. L. Thompson, the owner of a 100,000 sq ft hardware and household goods store in the Cayman Islands, visited Bermuda and gave her some advice.
Ms Bearden said: “He told me, ‘You’ve got a nice store here but you can do better. You should be doing a lot more.”
Recommending that she diversify into selling different products, Ms Bearden got a loan from Capital G bank and embarked on an overhaul.
“Capital G helped me so much in contributing the money to redo the store,” said Ms Bearden.
“We expanded it into what was once the warehouse space next door.
“It was a long process but we have so much stuff now.
“We sell everything from candy and cases of water to household goods. We also cut keys.
“Our core products are still building supplies but now we have soft lines as well. We also mix paint now.”
Baptiste Ltd employs 18 staff, all but one of whom are Bermudian, and Ms Bearden said praised their dedication through the changes.
“My staff are the best staff on the island, they have all jumped into this with me,” she said.
“They all work really hard and are very enthusiastic about the new lines.”
They also learned how to mix paint during a Valspar two-day training course.
“Since November of last year we’ve all had to learn this all over again,” said Ms Bearden.
“We have learned what sells and what doesn’t. We’ve been learning how to order faster and to order more often.
“Now the transactions are also faster, as we are not doing a single transaction for a single product, where people go to the warehouse to collect it.
“We have had to change everything, including our payment and invoicing methods.
“We are changing all the time as we go forward and are discovering new items in the US all the time.
“It has been hard work but we have a very dedicated staff.
“It’s not been easy but we are getting there, and it’s definitely worth it.”
Ms Bearden’s sister Sonja Oliviera, a buyer/kitchen designer, does most of the purchasing for household accessories, which Ms Bearden described as “flying off the shelves”.
As the business has changed, so has the consumer.
“Now the customer who comes here is mostly female, and spends far more time in the store browsing,” said Ms Bearden.
Baptiste Ltd also gets much of its business from landlords and Bermudians aged 35-40 who have bought their first home and are “fixing it up”.
The company’s new tagline is ‘Making home improvement affordable’ and its clientele is “blue-collar”, according to Ms Bearden.
“The big area for us now in our sales of windows and doors is in apartment renovations,” she said.
“Another big growth area is kitchen renovation. It is a competitive rental market out there now as there are so many empty apartments.”
Although the construction industry has slowed down, Ms Bearden is optimistic about the future.
“In the last 10 years, condominium building jumped through the roof,” she said.
“Although the situation has changed, I think the construction industry will go back to building houses and building apartment additions on to homes as a means of extra income for homeowners.”
• Baptiste Ltd is located at the corner of Khyber Pass and Middle Road, Warwick, behind Warwick Post Office. Call 236-2095 or go to www.baptiste.bm. The store also sells gift cards entitled the Wish Card, catering to all budgets. There are in-store special offers and customers can receive 10 per cent off purchases each Thursday if they pay by cash.The store is open from 8am-6pm, Monday to Saturday.