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Home Grown

Business: Burmeister's Discount Wall and Window Coverings

Owners: Gary and Penny Bonner

Ages: Both 61

Address: 1263 S. Peach St., Medford

Phone: 541-776-5000

Employees: 7

e-mail address: burmei@internetcds.com


: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?

Everything for the interior of the home such as wallpaper, window coverings, carpeting, accessories and consultation for whole-house interior design. We can get lamps, chandeliers, fixtures, custom bedspread ensembles, as well as phantom rollscreens for drawers and windows. We bought the company in 1989 from Henry and Carmel Burmeister. The store opened in the fall of 1964.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley?

We moved here from Fullerton, Calif., in January of 1990. My wife was originally from Ontario, Ore.

What inspired you to go into this line of work?

Penny had been doing interior decoration in California for a number of years. We decided we wanted to move to Oregon. We looked at several businesses from Portland on down to Medford in 1989. We made an offer to Henry and he accepted, and the next day we bought a house in Sun Oaks. That was around Thanksgiving (1989) and we went back down to California, sold some of our property and moved up here.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again?

I probably would've moved up here sooner.

What's the toughest business decision you've made?

It was early when we decided to put on the castle facade. It's a conservative area so it was a gamble.

In 1990 we tore the front of the building off, remodeled and changed the image and direction of the business. Its primary focus had been wallpaper and Henry had got into window covering in 1988. He was trying to drive the business up to increase the sales value, which was a smart thing to do.

The castle facade has paid off. We're still in business, it's 2004 and we've made money every year. Sales have plateaued some years, but nothing goes up all the time.

Who are your competitors?

I consider myself to be in competition with anyone that sells something to a buyer with discretionary dollars. There are a lot of people who sell the kinds of things we do, but there aren't too many people that have the range and breadth of products we have in one location.

There are people in the carpeting business, people who sell wallpaper such as Rodda Paint & Decor Center and Lowe's. But nobody has the selection we have. We have 1,000 wallpaper books, 900 patterns and 40,000 rolls of wallpaper in stock at a time. We represent all the major window covering companies.

How do you define success for your business?

Making sure we provide good value for customers, to keep the business growing at a positive rate and that we have a positive cash flow. Cash is king in a small business and to be able to continue year after year you have to have continual growth.

What are your goals?

We want to be able to continue with growth in our service area and continue to be profitable. When we had our books in front and inventory in the back, it required having additional staff. We did a major remodel five years ago that made things more efficient and that allowed us to reduce our staff by one or two people after that.

What training or education did you need?

A lot of it is ongoing training. Penny and two or three of our staff members have gone through certification with an interior decorating organization. We get a lot of ongoing training from vendors for installation and sales and we attend seminars by trade organizations or vendors three or four times a year.

I have a business degree from Woodbury University (in Burbank) and took graduate classes at UCLA. I was a chief financial officer for a number of Fortune 500 companies, including Arden Farms, Allen Group and Knudsen Corp.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Be willing to put in the time, 24/7. If you don't do that you're not going to be successful. Try to learn everything you can about all aspects of your business and general economics. Don't give up because everything isn't going to go well all the time. Make sure you're well financed and have plenty of capital because you've got to have money to stretch you through the bad times.

Gary and Penny Bonner own Burmeister?s Discount Wall and Window Coverings in south Medford. Among the changes they?ve made to the 40-year-old business is a quirky castle facade. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell