By Jessica Laskey
If there’s one thing Darius Baker has learned in his 31 years as the co-proprietor of D & J Kitchens and Baths, it’s how emotional a remodel really can be.
"You take your kitchen sink for granted until it’s gone," Baker says from behind his desk at D & J’s offices off Arden Way. "People don’t realize that their lives are going to be upside down while they’re having their home remodeled. I’ve experienced people with thimbles to 55-gallon buckets of emotion—you’ve got to know it’s going to come at you."
The human component of Baker’s job is perhaps where he excels the most. In addition to delivering quality kitchen and bath remodels—for which the company has won several awards from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, of which D & J is the longest-standing local member—Baker and his team employ a unique tool for convincing homeowners to select D&J.
"You want to know what kind of job we’ll do? Here." Baker hands over a six-plus-page list of former clients, complete with ZIP codes and phone numbers, for potential new customers to call and ask for personal recommendations.
"People can sell ice to Eskimos, but the most important thing about choosing a contractor is making sure you’ll work well with them," Baker says. "I had one client who mentioned to another that they were impressed that every time my workers left, the toilet seat was always down. It’s never going to cross your mind to ask that when you’re trying to decide who to hire, but those are the kinds of things that will get under your skin when someone’s in your house all the time on a job.
"And because we have such a long list of clients, we can’t cherry-pick just the best responses—you’re going to get an honest answer. This is the simplest thing consumers can do to ‘check the gut’ after the sales presentation."
This emphasis on open communication has won D & J repeat customers for decades, even in the recent economic downturn.
"What we’re seeing now is that people are not being as elaborate with their remodels—it was like a money tree before, but not now—and they’re more conscious of making the home they have into the home they want," Baker says.
"When you get to be more experienced in life, you start to understand finances. People at this stage in life may have more disposable income—their kids are grown, so they have fewer expenses—and they have a home that they’ve been in long enough to pull equity from. They’re more established in their jobs, so the banks are more willing to lend."
Baker has discovered that age is a factor not just in financial savvy, but also in homeowner needs.
"It is called ‘aging in place,’ " he says. "You grow a little bit older, things hurt, you’re not as mobile, it’s harder to reach things. Remodeling your existing home means that you’re working with a space you’re already familiar with to make it function even better. Even children have such issues and therefore accessibility needs."
But function doesn’t mean sacrificing form. Because D & J is a design-build company—meaning homeowners are able to work with in-house designers instead of hiring an independent architect—the work is done from paper to plaster by Baker and his talented local staff.
"People are willing to make concessions now to make their space their own," Baker says. "We get requests for more modest designs, but that doesn’t mean you have to scale back on materials. I mean, it’s not like on HGTV—it doesn’t happen in one day. How many times have I heard, ‘But I saw this on TV!’ However, with the right team, the perfect kitchen or bathroom is still absolutely achievable."
Ready for a remodel? Contact Baker at D & J Kitchens and Baths at 925-2577 or go to djkitchen.com.