HARBOR SPRINGS, MI – Founded in 1986, Craig and Diane Bell opened WARD Gallery, a specialty fine art and design store located in Harbor Springs, Michigan. With undergraduate and graduate degrees in fine art and design, and a passionate interest in the arts, the Bells felt it was natural to share these interests with their community. Nearly 20 years later, in 2005 the Bells saw an opportunity to expand their business.
Looking to cater to customers who sought to expand their home decor, the Bell’s opened Ciao Bella!, a brick and mortar store in the heart of the historic Gaslight District of Petoskey, Michigan. Having outgrown their ability to adequately present their outdoor living style in the home store, they opened Ciao Bella! Patio in 2013. Serving as Petoskey’s outdoor living store, Ciao Bella! Patio includes quality patio and deck furniture, water features, grills, outdoor kitchens and shade options, including Solair Shade Solutions® retractable awnings.
Ciao Bella! Patio Embraces Selling Opportunity with Solair
Living in an area with homes in need of shade, the Bells sought out Solair as an affordable solution that met the environmental concerns for their affluent customers. Many of these customers are those with second homes with properties residing on Little Traverse Bay and its surrounding lakes. “Retractable awnings are a logical extension of our design and interiors business where we have an established presence with homeowners. These second homes are owned by families who purchase quality,” says Craig Bell. “After seeing the quality of the product first hand and speaking with a Solair representative about their awning program, it was an easy decision to offer Solair retractable awnings in our patio store.”
Solair awnings provide a variety of benefits to homeowners including increased outdoor livability, shade and interior protection against the sun. But perhaps the biggest advantage for homeowners in Petoskey and the surrounding areas is worry-free protection against wind damage to their awning. “Often people in our area will consider the purchase of stationary awnings which have to be installed then removed each season.” Bell continues. “With a Solair retractable awning, this is no longer a concern. Their awnings are retractable, made with Sunbrella material and affixed with a wind sensor that automatically retracts the awning when it detects potentially damaging wind. The combination of quality fabric and design innovation makes it the ideal product for people who do not want to bother with the process reinstalling every season.”
Since joining the Solair Awning Program in 2014, Ciao Bella! Patio has placed four Solair awnings in their commercial locations, one on their home and sold five to clients. Bell credits having an operating awning display in his store as the reason to his success in the program. “When selling against a price competitor, one has to be able to demonstrate the benefits of the investment,” adds Bell. “The same is true for customers who do not see the immediate need and benefits they can derive. I believe a demonstration awning is crucial for both circumstances.”
Another successful selling strategy Bell employs in his stores is to tailor the Solair application to a particular site problem. “We always try to get on site to discuss what a Solair awning can do for a customer’s circumstance because most often we are selling a customer whose need is not obvious to them,” says Bell in reference to an install that led to the sale of two awnings to a customer who was unaware of their multiple shade needs.
With the spring arriving, the Bells are looking forward to another successful selling season.