2016 marks Gordon’s 30th anniversary of providing Vermonters and the world, with quality window decor and superb service.
What a great time to sit down with Kelly Conklin, the president and Gordon Clements, owner of Gordon’s Window Decor.
First, I chatted with Kelly.
Q: You went to college for film, correct? How do you think that schooling has benefited your career at Gordon’s?
Kelly: “Yep! I Went to Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communication for a film degree and it was an incredibly demanding program. The excellence expected from the professor’s taught me to hold my work to a higher standard than I ever had before. Though I do not use my specific degree here at Gordon’s; the discipline and rigor with which I approached my studies are skills that benefit me every day.”
Q: When did you start working for the company? Was there any ‘child labor’ infringement? *wink*
“I have been a part of the company since my folks opened up shop in 1986. Instead of getting grounded, my sisters and I had to come to the shop and put weights in vertical vanes or file or clean. Once I had a license, I had the privilege of driving many hundreds of shades to Cornell University on Winter and Summer Breaks. I started working for Gordon’s in earnest in 2003, and positively(and probably much to my dad’s surprise) FELL IN LOVE with the business!”
Q: How many positions have you worked at, the company?
“I have been order entry, front desk, purchasing, receiving, web manager, retail manager, chief operations officer and now am president.”
Q: How was it working along side your father and mother? Did you find it difficult to remove the family dynamic from the business?
“Because the business has essentially been another sibling sitting at the kitchen table for our entire lives, there is no possibility of removing the business from the family or vice versa. Our family vacations have always included stops to visit clients and our business trips frequently include kiddos. It is part of what I love about having a family business. The business is so much more than something we do to earn a paycheck.”
It is literally a part of the family.
In terms of working with my folks, it has added a dynamic to our relationship that is invaluable. Of course, my dad is at his best when he’s playing with his grandkids, but he is absolutely in his element when he working a room for business and to get to see him both of these roles. It’s just so awesome. Gord is a legend!”
Q: Did you ever see yourself becoming president of the company?
“In the beginning, absolutely not. But about 5 or 6 years ago, I realized just how much I love this company. Even on the really hard days, my passion for this company never falters. I cannot fathom doing anything else. Once that realization hit, I became incredibly eager to learn about every aspect of the business, so that when I did become president, I would be one that the rest of our team could feel confident in.”
Q: Now that you are the president, with your father stepping down last February, what do you see for the next 30 years for Gordon’s?
“I’m pausing at this question because, I just get SO pumped thinking about the next 30 years. I think about how Gordon’s Window Decor is going to take every standard in our industry and turn it on it’s head, in the pursuit of creating the most incredible experience for every single client of ours. Our mission statement commits to delivering a product and experience that makes our clients smile.
I am so looking forward spending the next 30 years delivering a product and experience that will make them jump up and squeal with delight!”
Next, I sat down with Gordon, owner/founder and Kelly’s father.
Q: Point blank, why window decor?
“Windows are both the home’s biggest asset and liability. With carefully chosen window treatments, you can use the asset to make an even greater impact and if designed wisely minimize the liability. More than 50 % of a home’s energy is lost from windows. Dollar for dollar no other home furnishing has as much impact on decor than window shades – they are a powerful coordinator adding color and texture and offering a manageable tool for controlling light, heat and sound.”
Q: Why did you choose to manufacture?
“I was frustrated by the shortcuts taken with even the biggest strongest brands. The life expectancy of a $200 shade would be cut in half to save 5 cents by using high bulk cord. By making it ourselves I could make sure that every single component was the best it could be. As a result we have people bringing shades back for cleaning that have been used ever day for 20 years. So the shades may have cost a few dollars more up front but what a bargain after only a few years.”
Q: What was your biggest hurdle and reward, in the past 30 years?
“Surprisingly it was finding good in home decorators. It is such a fun job helping people spend their decorating dollars and making the home more beautiful and energy efficient. There is flexibility in the hours so its great for someone with agendas like meeting the school bus. And the pay is great to.”
Q: Retiring can be a challenging decision for any business owner. How did if feel for you?
“It’s a mixed bag. I missed the routine, being needed, the camaraderie of the team and our clients – who do become good friends. But then I enjoy the luxury of exploring the world with Dianne and spending a lot of time with our grandkids.”
Q: Now that your daughter Kelly has the stewardship of the business, where do you think her leadership differs from yours?
“Kelly is more a people person with a passion for those things that drive Millennials like community and giving back. We have always focused on quality and sustainability, but she takes it to a whole new level. And then there is the life balance that she wants for herself and her team. I was a workaholic – not something great to look back on but that was me.”
Q: In 30 years, how many homes do you think boast Gordon’s made in Vermont shades?
“In our immediate market surrounding Chittenden county I would guess upwards of 40 to 50 thousand homes. If you add in the shades we sell to other parts of the world – who knows.”
Made in Vermont, by Vermonters.