Case Studies

Sharp Interiors Inc.

Building unique interior spaces in North Carolina

In 1989, Jim Dobbins recognized the need for reliable and efficient interior contracting services in North Carolina. In response, he founded Sharp Interiors Inc. (SII). Dobbins was only 28 at the time, with experience in a range of construction methods. He graduated from North Carolina State with a degree in civil engineering and then worked in the concrete industry, at times in laboratories.

In 2000, he added Sharp Stone Supply Inc. (SSS), supplying manufactured stone veneer to homeowners, builders and masons alike. “The stone business came about when I was trying to build a house around 1998 or 1999,” he explains. “I had a hard time finding stone for the project and realized that was another opportunity. We started to talk to people and builders about how much stone they used. Brands were very limited in the area at the time, so we went out and found options. I started the company myself in 2000 and it grew quickly.”

Dobbins’ keen eye for new markets and industry experience have informed his leadership style over the years. He now leads a team of approximately 60 employees, working at the SII and SSS locations in Winston-Salem, N.C., as well as an additional SII location in Raleigh, N.C. The interiors business operates throughout northern and central North Carolina, while the stone operation works with customers all over the world. “Our stone sales are mostly in North Carolina and Virginia,” Dobbins explains. “We have worked with customers in Pennsylvania and New York and we have even sent an order to Africa.”

Cutting-edge capabilities and product lines

On the construction end, SII has been involved with a wide range of interior projects. Clients vary and include businesses in the hospitality, industry, medical facilities, corporate office buildings, schools and even some residential work. The crew performs insulation, light gauge metal framing and trusses, acoustical ceilings, doors, frames and hardware, wall treatments such as plaster, stucco and synthetic finishes, as well as faux rock and pavers.

Recently, the team has completed several unique contracts with clients from different backgrounds. SII worked on Primland, a high-end resort, spa and events center in the mountains of Virginia. The company has been busy in the hospitality market, also working on a number of large hotels in Raleigh, such as the Embassy Suites, and Hilton Garden Inn.

SSS has been holding its own on the stone supply end. The business offers a diverse product line, featuring well-known manufacturers. The company’s main brands are Cultured Stone, Eldorado Stone, StoneCraft and Dutch Quality Stone. These brands provide a wide range of authentic-looking manufactured stone products, design to fit nearly any aesthetic imaginable.

An experienced staff represents the supplier, working closely with customers to provide quality products, including stone, as well as mortar, lath and felt paper, that end users will be happy with for years to come. SSS provides design and palette assistance and also helps customers with estimating the overall cost of the project. The team will even refer customers to experienced masons and installers who can perform high-quality, durable and beautiful stone work.

The Sharp difference

Dobbins has found steady success with both businesses, managing to retain a high level of quality and integrity, even during the recent economic downturn. While he and his team had to make some major changes, including the closing of a facility in Raleigh, both companies are stable and growing again. “We have been much stronger over the last three years,” he explains. “We are still the largest distributor in the state for StoneCraft and Eldorado.”

The secret, he explains, is building and maintaining relationships. “We try to offer competitive pricing to everyone,” Dobbins notes. “We have some dealers that buy a lot of product from us, but if anyone were to come in to make a purchase, we would make it available to them at a competitive price. Our biggest indicator of success is repeat business. 40 percent of our work in stone supply is with masons or their customers. We are building a partnership with those contractors.”

Dobbins is proud to note that nearly all of the company’s business comes through word-of-mouth. “If you do a good job, someone will tell one person,” he continues. “If you do a bad job, someone will tell 30 people. We look at positive controlled growth. We are not trying to be the low price leader. Our successes are more about the happy customers than the money.”

In the coming years, Dobbins expects continued, steady growth for the businesses. “We want to stay stable,” he explains. “We are growing in Raleigh and meanwhile we want to save a little money while keeping our name out there.” He and his team remain optimistic, looking ahead for new opportunities. With manageable, organic growth, Sharp Interiors Inc. and Sharp Stone Supply Inc. continue to provide outstanding service, quality craftsmanship and professional partnerships to a wide range of clientele.

Published on: November 10, 2014

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