Environmental Tech Center: Home Showroom Boosts Sales
Environmental Tech Center builds a 2,800-square-foot loft on top of the building that doubles as a home and showroom to help boost sales.
David Shulman has taken the term “home office” to the extreme.
His 2,800-square-foot waterfront loft has plenty of amenities you might find in a bachelor pad … there’s avant-garde furniture, four balconies and a rooftop area for entertaining, a massive telescope set up to check out the Boston skyline just across the harbor, his dogs Chopper and Baca roaming the place, and even a walk-in shower with an impressive window view.
But upon closer inspection, the rooftop residence that occupies the entire fourth floor of a seven-unit apartment building is more than just a home. It’s a showcase of hidden technology that also doubles as a secondary (and sometimes primary) showroom for Environmental Tech Center, an East Boston, Mass., integration company.
The loft includes $200,000 worth of equipment, including a full home control system for lighting and multiroom audio, multiple fl at-panel TVs, a dedicated theater in the master suite, a massive equipment rack, and a two-channel listening area using in-wall speakers.
But beyond the real secret to the success of the loft as a showroom for clients is that it is physically attached to Environmental Tech Center’s main showroom and office. Literally, clients who visit the showroom can walk a mere few dozen steps up a stairway to move from the office into the home showroom. There’s no need for setting up a separate appointment with the clients (about half of them) who want to see home technology “in action” inside a working home.
“It also makes it easy to answer a common question I get from clients: ‘What do you have in your home?’ The home showroom builds instant credibility with clients, because it shows them that you trust everything you sell,” says Shulman.
About Environmental Tech Center
Location: East Boston
Web Site: techctr.com
Years in Business: 38
Number of Employees: 8
Specialty: High-end residential systems and custom programming
Top Brands: “Every project is designed to meet the client wants and needs. The most important brand we offer is the Tech Center brand.” Key brands include Apple, Crestron, Bay Audio, Genelec, Runco, Da-Lite and Middle Atlantic.
FYI: “Set client expectations … under promise and over deliver.”
Building a Showroom on the Roof
Environmental Tech Center has been serving clients in the Boston area for 38 years. David’s father, Bruce Shulman, and his partner Anthony Labella started the company back in 1974 (see sidebar on Page 2). David worked in the company first as a technician in the late 1980s and then full-time in sales since 1997 after a stint as a purchasing agent for a big-box store. Tragically, the elder Shulman died in October 2010 in a helicopter crash. Today, David Shulman and Labella are partners.
The company’s modest offices, located right on the waterfront in East Boston, stretch narrowly across a single city block. On one side of the lot, the three-story office is the frontage on the street. On the other side of the lot - the “back” of the nearly century-old building - is an eight-unit apartment building owned by Shulman.
Back in 2005-06, the apartments needed extensive renovations and structural repairs. And since the building needed to be reinforced, Shulman decided to make it structurally able to accommodate an entire fourth floor loft apartment. At the time, there was no intention of using the space as a home showroom.
“I designed it for me, not to use as a showroom. I wanted all the best electronics just for myself,” recalls Shulman. “I wanted reference quality audio and video. Did I know at the time it would become a showroom for the company? No,” he says rhetorically.
But throughout the 18-month construction cycle, he quickly found himself walking clients over from the office to the construction zone so they could see how the systems were being installed.
“It worked equally well as a showroom when all the walls were open with wires and back-boxes exposed as it does now,” notes Shulman. “We already had a great showroom, but it didn’t have a great view and we had the opportunity to put in better electronics.”
The construction cycle was not just great for customers, but also a lesson for Shulman. “I ended up working closely with the general contractor and lined up many of the individual contractors myself. I learned a lot.”
Unique Systems in Home
The loft itself is loaded with technology, but some of it is not traditional. For example:
Access Control/Security: Having a DSC security system is not unique, but because the loft is the top floor of an apartment building, the entry from the street has a Door King access control entry system with a mobile link that Shulman can use to show clients how easy it is to connect intercom and potentially a camera to a mobile device.
“Once they see this, they instantly understand access control. If they don’t need access control, they at least realize the advantages of having a doorbell integrated with their audio and video,” he points out.
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at [email protected]
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