Ahead of the Curve
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Director of Purchasing Kathy Martin is practically a permanent fixture at Chambers. For the over 20 years, Martin has been key to making projects come together exactly the way our designers and clients have envisioned. Though she largely works behind the scenes, she leads the charge when it comes to refreshing private club interiors on time and on budget. Here she divulges more about her beginnings at Chambers, as well as what purchasing and installation is all about.
CR: Chambers is well-known for its planning and design services, but some may not be as familiar with its purchasing and installation services. What is your role in the design process?
KM: Purchasing at Chambers is a turnkey solution – we do a little bit of everything. We handle the logistics of the furnishings, price negotiations for each item, vendor relationships, and accounting. We make sure that all interior projects are executed on time and on budget. We’re also responsible for finding solutions to any shipping delays or other manufacturing issues. Personally, I enjoy having a direct relationship with at least some part of each project. When I first started at Chambers, I strictly fulfilled a purchasing role, but that has expanded over the years to include accounting, vendor relations, installations, and a whole lot more.
CR: How did you get into the field of purchasing and installation?
KM: I began working in purchasing at Hochschild Kohn’s – which had ten department stores in the Baltimore area at the time – as a furniture buyer. I worked there until the chain folded in the early 1980’s. After that, I had another furniture purchasing role for a hotel that operated out of the Dominican Republic, but they later closed as well. Can you follow the recessions here? Honestly, that’s one of the many reasons that I love working for Chambers. We’re consistent. We’ve got grit. We’ve been able to endure through even the most difficult circumstances – economic or otherwise.
CR: Speaking of economics, how do you negotiate prices with vendors? Do you have a favorite negotiation tactic?
KM: Lucky for me, Chambers’ long history gives us a lot of leverage with vendors. We have great relationships with them, in part because we always pull through for them. We’ve been around for such a long time – through good economic times and not-so-good economic times – and no matter what we’ve always provided them with business. Those strong ties and a reputation for reliability go a long way when it comes to negotiating to get the best possible product prices for our clients.
CR: You touch many aspects of the process. What’s your favorite part of the job?
KM: The installation process is my favorite part. I get to see the hundreds of thousands of purchasing orders we’ve been handling for months – sometimes years – finally transform into a finished product. It’s amazing to see all the individual components come to life – it’s like conducting a symphony in a way. And each concert is different yet equally exciting.
CR: Is it satisfying to see a project finally come together?
KM: One hundred percent! Every piece of furniture has its own story of how it got to the point of installation, and that’s something that I get to enjoy on a personal level. As they say, the planners are the first ones in the door, but purchasing and installation are the last ones out. My team gets to turn off the lights at the end of the day and allow the club to celebrate their new beginning. It’s always nice to leave the club knowing that the members are happy with the final product!
Interested in finding out more about our Purchasing or Installation services? Email Kathy Martin!