OXFORD – Faber’s Home & Kitchens will celebrate its 35th year as an Oxford business in 2024.
Pete Faber is owner of Faber’s Home & Kitchens and Countryside Stove & Chimney of Oxford, which shares the same building. Countryside Stove & Chimney is managed by his son, Peter.
The demographics for the two companies are totally different, but the companies are intertwined, sharing expertise and employees.
Faber’s Home & Kitchens was created in 1989.
Unfortunately in the early ‘90s was when Proctor and Gamble moved out of the area and a recession hit Chenango County.
“So there were some really tough years at the start. But when you’re self-employed and you made a huge investment in opening a store, it’s like farming - just because you had a bad crop doesn’t mean you walk away from it that year, you just know that you have to stay alive and next year hopefully things will get better,” he said.
“My first remodeling job I did was when I was 18 years old, so this is my 52nd year of remodeling work and contracting,” said Faber.
He started out in North Jersey, and was partners his with father-in-law operating a home improvement business and a kitchen and bath showroom.
“That’s where I had my roots, but I moved here in 1989 and started over. It was tough to move to a new area where nobody knows you. The only way you go any place is by quality of work and word of mouth,” he said.
“I’ve always had support from my family. In the early days it was my son-in-law, Josh Gould, who helped me, but he left in 2003 to join the Sheriff’s Department. Then his wife, Jennifer, who is my daughter, worked here for the last nine years as the business manager. My son, Peter, runs the business at the other side of the building, Countryside Stove & Chimney, 100 percent,” said Faber.
The business was in Oxford for five years before the family purchased a building with help from the Oxford Industrial Development. Oxford Industrial Development is a nonprofit that lends money to small businesses in the Oxford area.
“It was a success story, because at the time my lease wasn’t being renewed she wanted me to buy the building but the terms weren’t reasonable and in hindsight that was the best thing that could’ve happened to me,” he said.
Countryside Stove & Chimney of Oxford
One of the reasons Faber started Countryside in 1998 was because the two companies complimented each other so well. In the wintertime, Chenango County construction comes to a standstill and few are buying home improvement products.
“We were at a home show in Binghamton, and we sold a wood stove, and my wife said ‘I’d like to open a business’. So one thing led to another, and she was the one who opened Countryside Stove & Chimney of Oxford,” explained Faber.
“My son-in-law was working for us then, and I had about three or four carpenters — back in those days we were doing sales, installs and general remodeling work — doing a little bit of everything to make it in Chenango County. There isn’t enough to specialize in just one thing here. So that’s when we opened Countryside,” he said.
There were about 12 Countryside Stove & Chimneys in New York State at one time but only about half that number now.
“We buy through a wholesale distributor out of Western New York, and having the franchise name, we’re able to buy at a better price. We also got assistance with the storeroom design and training and all of that kind of stuff that came along with the franchise. When you’re new that was huge. We’re at the point now where we can go there and train dealers for them,” said Faber.
Being self employed takes dedication said Faber.
“There’s no such thing as days off, no sick days, very few vacation days. And because this is a rural area it’s tough. You can’t charge the money here for doing what you’re doing like you can out in the suburban areas. Most of your overhead costs are the same, but we have to work on a much smaller margin because you can’t pass all the costs on to the customers here,” he said.
“When I go to national shows and trainings and they tell you how much you should be charging and you talk to the other guys and hear how much they’re charging, we’re probably half the price,” he said.
He said the increase in minimum wage was very hard for small businesses.
“We used to hire a lot more kids to work for us, but I can’t justify $15 per hour for them. Then to be fair to my adult employees I’ve had to increase their wages too. I’m paying employees more now than I ever could have fathomed. I’m paying them more than what I was charging per hour with company overhead twenty-five years ago,” he explained.
The company doesn’t have trouble keeping employees, but it’s very hard to find new ones.
Technical skills are required and there is a small pool of qualified candidates in the area.
Cabinetry for kitchens and bathrooms is Fabers number one product. Flooring is the second-most popular product.
Seasonal products, such as vinyl railings, maintenance-free decking, boat docks, etc. are also popular. A majority of customers are private homeowners.
“I’ve been doing dealings with some of these families for thirty-five years now, and every time I go to their house to measure for a kitchen or something like that, we sit down and have a cup of coffee and talk about family, you know, ‘what’s you’re brother doing’ and that kind of stuff. Almost everybody who comes through the door here, I can connect the dots and know why they’re coming in. It’s very rare that we have complete strangers come in through the door,” said Faber.
The business does not get a lot of through traffic so when Faber meets a customer they probably traveled to the store for a specific reason.
“We’re a destination. People will come in the door here only because they want to come here. Because of that we have a higher ratio of closing sales than they do at a home center like Lowes, where everybody and their brother will walk in and ask about designing a kitchen, but then you won’t ever see them again. People are coming here already knowing about us, and they want to buy from us. It’s a whole different type of customer,” he said.
Country Stove & Kitchen shares space in the same building.
Fabers has seven full-time employees, and seven to ten part-time employees. They also work closely with a number of local contractors.
“Ones that we know are of quality, that we recommend. Likewise, these guys send their customers to us,” he said.
“We’re a mini home center, where it’s one-stop shopping for anything you need for your home improvement,” said Faber. “We’re like the special order desk at Lowes. The difference though is that we don’t inventory anything here, everything is special order. Anything here at the store, one of us family members or the employees have installed it, we’ve been to the factory, we’ve had in-store training — we’re knowledgeable, inside and out about everything we offer.”