At a newly opened propane appliance showroom in Virginia, visitors can enjoy a coffee bar with hot water supplied by a tankless water heater, view different fireplace vignettes, and relax under a pergola while gathered around a grill island or a fire pit. The showroom was the center of attention during an Aug. 1 open house celebrating Holtzman Propane’s new location in Tappahannock.
The Tappahannock branch is the fourth retail propane location operated in Virginia by Holtzman Propane and it is the second opened just this year. All the branches offer fireplaces, inserts, space heaters, and hot water heaters. Each is a one-stop shop offering propane appliance sales, installation, service, and repair. Each also features a showroom to showcase the equipment that is offered.
“The Tappahannock office is located on a main thoroughfare connecting northern Virginia with our service area,” Jennifer White, district manager, told BPN. “We have a lot of customers with second homes on the water, so in addition to our standard hearth product offerings, we included outdoor living spaces in our showroom design. We offer our community the shopping experience they deserve. Just because they’re in a small town shouldn’t mean they have to travel to a large metropolitan area to visit a quality retail showroom.”
“Some bigger companies don’t have showrooms and are not open to the public,” said Donald Hornor, regional manager. “By us having them, we can deliver that personal touch. People can come in and see me and see Jennifer. As much as things have gone online, people still want to touch the products and talk with the same people they’ve talked with before.”
BENEFITTING THE COMMUNITY
During the grand opening celebration, town leaders and residents enjoying the get-together told the Holtzman Propane team, “We’re so glad you’re here.” A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held July 31, followed by the open house on Aug. 1. The event included free food and drinks, product demos, and showroom tours. A local radio station held a live broadcast. A fire truck was parked outside for children to enjoy. Prizes contributed by Holtzman Propane and other local businesses were raffled off and the proceeds were donated to the Tappahannock-Essex Volunteer Fire Department.
Due to the coronavirus, masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer were on hand for all to use and enough staff were there to ensure these were kept readily available. Grab bags were given out; as a precaution, they were handed out individually rather than being distributed in a free-for-all.
Throughout the celebration, all the propane appliances were operating.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A SHOWROOM
“A showroom is an important part of full-service marketing, selling burner tips, and meeting the people,” said industry veteran Randy Doyle, who has been helping Holtzman Propane expand into new markets. “A frontline retail-like presence is one of the propane marketer’s enduring principles of success.”
He explained Holtzman’s three goals for its showrooms. First, the propane experience: “Customers want to know propane and experience propane,” Doyle said. “The best way to do that is, before making a purchase, come in and experience the live burn and have someone explain the benefits with the appliance on hand.” Second, human capital: “Employees with local relations who are confident propane experts speaking directly with the customer.” Third, community commitment through an attractive Main Street presence: “A common theme from community leaders at the open house was their appreciation for raising the image of their community.”
Each of Holtzman Propane’s four propane locations has different demographics and requires a different product mix, White noted, “but we’re always looking to serve small communities.” She said the newest showroom was designed to feel like home and to help visitors imagine what the appliances would contribute to their own home. “You can see and hear the tankless water heater next to the sink and see how quickly the hot water gets there,” she pointed out.
“You can’t get that experience on a video,” White added. “The kinds of things we sell are best purchased when you can look at it and get input from employees about what is best for your home. Would you buy a thousand-dollar gas log based on a picture?”
“Delivering on this caliber of experience for the customer is difficult, but is worth doing,” Hornor concluded. “That helps us retain our customers and gain new ones.” — Steve Relyea