Business after hours
By MIKE REILLY | January 15,2013
Tim Williams is president of Exterus Business Furniture, which hosted the November chamber event; Chris Echo is a partner in the business.
Exterus Business Furniture in Shelburne hosted the November installment of Business After Hours (BAH), the monthly business networking event of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce (LCRCC). Exterus used the night as a grand opening of its newly expanded and renovated showroom.
Co-sponsors included LaVilla Bistro, TELigence Partners, Otter Creek Brewing Company, and My Little Cupcake.
The hosts offered guests live music courtesy of Leno, Cheney, & Young, a group offering pop classics and featuring Craig Leno, Jim Cheney, and Robert Young.
Management at Exterus saw BAH as an opportunity to allow the business community to get a look at a showroom and product line they are proud of.
“We’ve been in business about six years, and about two years ago we took on a new product line called Teknion,” said Tim Williams, president at Exterus. “It’s a great fit for the Vermont market, and we needed to create a space to properly showcase it.” He said the Teknion line offers high-end design at affordable prices.
Added partner and account executive Chris Echo: “It’s a cliché, but bringing Teknion under our roof allows us to be a one-stop shop. Everything from front of the office, to back of the office, wall systems, mobile furniture, training — the whole package.” He said the company offers a mix of high-tech and traditional furnishings, while keeping pace with workplace changes.
The new showroom offers more than 7,500 square feet, according to Williams, in addition to extensive warehouse space. “It’s one of the larger spaces around to actually visit and view real furniture,” Echo said.
That said, the showroom is less of a retail space than a place for customers planning full office packages for new construction or renovations. “Most of our business is project-driven,” Williams said.
Exterus Business Furniture has 10 employees, as well as a number of staff in its on-site tech division, Exterus Technology for Business. “We also have a full-time designer on staff,” Williams said, “and that helps set us apart.”
Williams said he has been in Vermont’s office furniture business since 1976, and Echo since 1994. “So, even though we are a fairly new business, we’re not new to the market.”
Added Echo, “We both grew up in the Burlington area, so just to impact this community and work with other local business owners is really important to us on the commercial side.”
“We know this market and have the right product for this market,” added Williams. “This isn’t Boston or New York. We can give customers a product with a high-end look and feel, but we also know it needs to be market-real on price.” Echo said Exterus serves companies in a broad range of industries, including banking, health care and higher education. He said the firm offers professional consultation on everything from wall colors and carpet, to art on the walls, in addition to furniture.
“Our goal is to be the best commercial office furniture supplier in the market,” Echo said. “Hopefully, tonight people will see we’re here to stay and out to really make a change in this marketplace.”
Jennifer Jarecki, events coordinator at LCRCC, said Cynthea Wight Hausman, owner of Cynthea’s Spa in Burlington, was recently named vice chair of the chamber’s Ambassadors Committee. Brand-new ambassadors include Tyler Wood of The Vermont Agency, Maureen Carlo of NeuEon, and Nate Miller of Dominion Tech.
Lynne Witter works for event co-sponsor TELigence Partners in New Hampshire. She offers telecommunications consulting to businesses throughout northern New England. “I came up from New Hampshire for a business meeting,” Witter said, “but this event is the real reason I came.”
Rob Desautels just moved NPC Processing from Holmes Road in South Burlington to Executive Drive in Shelburne. “It’s all new construction, 45,000 square feet, and it’s U.S.D.A. (U.S. Department of Agriculture) inspected,” Desautels said. NPC processes meat for nationwide distribution. The new space also enabled him to bring a cooking operation previously located in Middlebury under the same roof. “It saves operating costs and gives us an ability to grow,” he said.
Ben Durant was on hand to represent East Shore Vineyard: “I’m here to promote our wines and to make sure folks know about our tasting room and the special events we can offer.” East Shore Vineyard has a tasting room on the top block of Church Street in Burlington, as well as a seasonal tasting room on the Sugarbush Access Road in Warren. Durant said East Shore offers business parties and client tastings, and other special event options to area businesses.
In August, Heidi Auclair became the owner of Green Box. “It’s the eco-friendly way to move,” Auclair said. Green Box rents reusable plastic boxes to customers who are moving. Auclair said the boxes, made of recycled materials, replace the need to buy and assemble cardboard boxes, as well as the waste associated with disposable boxes. She said the State of Vermont has been using Green Box extensively for office moves.
Hugh Marble is a finance professor at the University of Vermont. “I came with a friend who said this is a good place to network. And, I also hope to win the office chair they are raffling.”
Bill Vitale, a South Hero-based sales representative for Bunzl Distribution, said he was attending his first BAH. “I came to catch up with some old work cohorts,” he said. Bunzl offers paper, janitorial supplies, food-service packaging, and safety products in 26 countries. Vitale’s territory covers northern Vermont and three counties in New York State.
Hannah Kirkpatrick launched a new venture three weeks prior to BAH called AffirmUlation. She said her objective is to help women entrepreneurs achieve independence through a product everyone can use and benefit from called Xtreme Fuel Treatment.
“I’m passionate about helping women,” Kirkpatrick said. “And, I worked in marketing for 10 years and was sick of selling people things they didn’t need. People use this, and it works. It saves them money and is good for the environment.”
The Champlain Business Journal offers regular coverage of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Business After Hours events, with notes on event hosts and sponsors, and snippets from those in attendance. Check the LCRCC Web site at www.vermont.org for upcoming events.