New retail business collaboration

By Stephen Paulsen

In a bright red building on the corner of SE 8th and Hawthorne, a group of friends and co-workers have put their careers on the line in the hopes of making their community—and their own lives—better.

Enter Eastbank Contractor Appliances, a local store that opened a little over a year ago. From the very start, a collaborative and community-based ethos has been integral to the business.

From left to right; Derek Berg, Jackie Paul, Thom Feller, Terry Hellman, Rob Kemp. On the far right is Tom Dinsdale.

After the company took over the building from an antique store in early 2012, the newly self-employed team began work on an interior demolition and remodel.

It was only a matter of time before they caught the attention of their neighbors, who have quickly become eager proponents of the enterprise.

“It was all positive support and feedback,” says manager Tom Dinsdale, recounting how orders started coming in on the very first day of business. The encouragement has not just come from prospective clients however.

Eastbank Contractor Appliances has readily networked with many interested business, including Caesarstone, who donated an estimated $80,000 in free countertop work to the new business. In return, the stoneworking company now uses Eastbank for their own showings.

It is not hard to understand why so many are eager to do business with them as they have placed a high value on integrity and honesty from the very beginning.

The company eschews “spiffs”; a term for financial incentives given to retailers in exchange for selling certain products. After all, spiffs can easily trap retailers into hawking inferior products, which Dinsdale describes as the company’s “antithesis”.

“We’d rather win them over with our knowledge,” he says. To this end, he touts the company as “buy-what-we-sell rather than sell-what-we-buy.”

The employees of Eastbank Contractor all came from a previous business. “We just felt things were going in a direction that was more retail-oriented,” says Derek Berg, another employee. “Here, we’re not restricted in the levels we can take customer service to.”

In this regard, the company’s saga mirrors the personal story of Dinsdale. Initially, he was unequivocally a retailer, but it was not long before he realized this path was not right for him.

“I couldn’t sleep at night,” he says, referring to the guilt he felt whenever he promoted a shoddy product. Then a transfer to the building department changed his life. “I felt like I had accomplished something,” he says. “It was the honest side of the industry.” He pauses a moment before summing it up: “We’re not retail people.”

This sort of honesty breeds respect and the business has become close not only with its client base, but with the manufacturers it chooses to do business with.

“We get special prices from manufacturers,” Dinsdale elaborates, explaining how Eastside Contractor offers at least the same deals as retailers, and frequently at better prices.

The front of the store is where some of the most exciting appliances are, like a Miele induction cooktop, a fridge that can be customized based on what is stored in each of its subcompartments, and a double-tap, stocked with a couple of Lucky Labrador kegs from over on Hawthorne Blvd.

As employees recount specialty products they have worked on, it becomes clear that Eastside’s most exciting projects are scattered across town. One described building a combination laundry/beer room for a married couple. Another tells of installing a washing machine for a client—for lettuce, not for clothes.

Eastbank’s “Iron Kitchen”

Dinsdale closes with optimistic parting words. “If you’re in a rut doing something you don’t want to do, take the risk,” he says. “It’s better to take a shot then to look back and wish you had done something.”

He smiles, pausing to look around the business he helped to create. “We’re happier than we’ve ever been.”

You may contact them at 503.954.1192

New retail business collaboration

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