Creative Kitchens Inc.
For many homeowners, the kitchen is much more than a place to cook, bake and eat; it’s the hub of the home, where family memories are made. With more than 55 years of full-service remodeling experience, Creative Kitchens Inc. (CKI) has been helping families create the ideal space starting in the kitchen and continuing throughout the home with a full array of products for the baths, the family room with built-ins and even onto outdoor living areas.
“My father, Bob Stepp, founded the company in 1959,” recalls Rob Stepp, now second-generation president of CKI. “I started working with my father in the warehouse and in the shop when I was a young boy. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember; I like to say I was born to do this. It’s the only job I’ve ever held or desired to do.”
After 55 years, CKI remains a family owned- and -operated company. “I run the company in partnership with my sister, Nancy Rigney, vice president of CKI,” reveals Rob. “I’m actively involved in sales, product development and sales management. She takes care of accounting and the inner workings of the firm. Her husband, Mike, has been in sales and sales management and my wife, Jeanne, runs our customer service. Even my son, Ryan, is also involved in our CAD drafting and design department.”
Over the years, CKI has expanded across West Virginia. “In 1974 we doubled the size of our Huntington showroom and added much needed warehouse space and later in 1986 dramatically increased the size of our fabrication shop,” notes Rob. “We opened our Charleston, W.Va., location in 1989 and our Lewisburg, W.Va., store in 2006.”
The design-build evolution
When Bob retired in 1999, CKI began undergoing significant changes. “At one time, we had 28 dealers stocking cabinets to distribute to other cabinet shops, but the industry changed with the economy,” reveals Rob. “Dealers could purchase direct from the manufacturer so we stopped acting so much as a dealer and distributor and evolved into a design-build business in the late 1990s. We went from having two installers to having nine teams of two installers.”
With a sizable team of installers, CKI has a do-it-yourself attitude. “One of the things I’m most proud of is the fact that we do most everything with our own people, we typically don’t use subcontractors,” shares Rob. “Doing it ourselves means there’s only one go-to person if there’s a question or a challenge on a job.”
Changing with the market demand, CKI also diversified its product line, extending beyond the kitchen and into bathroom renovations and remodels. “We’ve become very active in the whole process,” says Rob. “Historically, CKI was involved with solely kitchens, appliances and the occasional bath vanity, but now we do everything from light fixtures to tile and finishes. We’re balanced between the kitchen and the bathroom now.”
CKI has become better-rounded in terms of its offerings. “We sell everything from a basic builder varied cabinet used in apartments to a very high end, custom project,” notes Rob.
Extended service backed by innovative products
According to Rob, CKI has recently added several additional and innovative cabinet lines from Master Brand Cabinets Inc. (MBCI). “Taking on more of these products, we’ve become what MBCI refers to as master partner,” he explains. “This, along with our shareholder relationship with the Bath and Kitchen Buying Group [BKBG], has increased our buying power and allows us to purchase at the most competitive price possible. It takes a significant commitment of resources so it’s not for most companies, but we now carry four MBCI cabinet product lines.”
Part of the lineup includes a series of unique frameless cabinets, Kitchen Craft. “Historically, builders have always believed that if there’s a frame, it’s a better product, yet we have learned that more wood doesn’t necessarily make it superior,” reveals Rob. “Frameless cabinets allow for wider openings and cleaner interiors. It’s definitely a bit of an anomaly in the market, especially in this region.”
CKI is also stepping outside, quite literally, when it comes to outdoor living environments. “Recently, we’ve been involved in complete home renovations from kitchens and baths to bedroom design and outdoor fireplaces,” adds Rob. “The hard surfaces and stones we have in-house allow us to work throughout the home. We’ve done some beautiful mantels and fireplaces.”
CKI’s inspiring work attracts plentiful repeat clients every year. “We’re getting ready to do a full renovation on a two bedroom condo for a returning customer,” tells Rob. “Once it’s completed it will be a significant project.”
The company’s work has been recognized far and wide, by Woman’s Day and other home living magazines. “We’re also a member of the National Kitchen and Bath Association,” reveals Rob.
After more than half a century in business, CKI has endured the challenges of the residential marketplace by careful, thoughtful adaptation. “Mainly we were insulated from the recession by our willingness to do the remodeling aspect,” explains Rob. “Kitchen projects turned into increasing amounts of bath jobs. We probably wouldn’t be in business if it wasn’t for the bath side. We’re still balanced between the two, although lately the bathroom has had a lot more attention and that’s all well and good because it’s made us better at what we do.”
Don’t let the name mislead you, CKI is much more than the kitchen milieu. Creative Kitchens Inc. combines the best of the kitchen, bath and beyond, building on a trusted name for in-house installation and fine craftsmanship for more than 55 years.
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