We just had the pleasure of completing our interview with Monika Durczak and Jacob Visutskie, owners of Alteriors Contemporary Furniture Inc. This may be our most up-close and in-depth interview to date, as Monika and Jacob provided an in-depth perspective on the contemporary furniture industry and truly shared their passion for authentic design. Do not miss this one!
Could you please tell us the name of your business and briefly explain what you do?
Monika: Our business name is Alteriors Contemporary Furniture Inc., but we go by Alteriors. What we do is provide authentic, high quality, carefully selected furniture brands in Ottawa. We try to cater to the mid to high end residential and commercial markets.
Jacob: We provide a positive shopping experience for the consumer. We compete with a lot of online companies so for us it’s all about the experience. If you’re buying an $8000 sofa we want to ensure you’re spending your money the right way, It’s about the right size, the right fit, the right piece. It’s very interactive with the customer.
Monika: We offer in house consultations that are free of charge for about an hour to better understand the client’s needs and the space that they’re working with so we can better suit the furniture for the space. We do furniture layouts and we do drawings, 3D drawings that help customers visualize the space better. Also, the main thing for us is authenticity in our products. We do not carry any knock off brands, Jacob and myself both have design backgrounds. I have an architectural degree and Jacob has an interior design diploma. It’s important for us to carry brands that are authentic to the designer and respect the designer’s research and development processes.
Jacob: We call our product semi-custom, there’s many options for everything. You come in and you see the piece, then we can configure it, fabrics, leathers etc. If we had 300 000 sq ft, we probably still couldn’t show everything we sell. Here it’s like a little boutique representing the brands so you can see the quality and then you order. One of our companies has 4 million SKUs. You can have one table with ten different tops and ten different legs, those ten different tops can come in five different finishes. walnut, oak, etc.
What made you want to start in this business/industry and when did you start?
Monika: It started with me working for the previous owner here, I worked for him for about two and a half years. I left the retail business for about two years and in retrospect realized that I really did enjoy what I was doing being more connected in the design industry with furniture and stuff, that was in 2009. I came back in 2009 and we took over. We both have design backgrounds as I mentioned, a degree in architecture and interior design so we both have a love for design and different fields regardless. With having worked here in the past I really felt comfortable to take this on. Jacob made his decision to leave his government job at the time, it was a 100% dedicated decision to go into it full force. It was a great opportunity presented to us from the business owner, we couldn’t pass it up.
Jacob: We always wanted to have a store, we just thought it would happen closer to retirement. When you see Ligne Roset, it looks good but it’s also comfortable, that’s designed furniture. It’s not like someone has taken a photo of a sofa, sent it off to China to have it replicated, without studying the ergonomics of it. Everything here has had an actual designer design it. They’ve thought, how does your body fit in it, what’s the depth, what’s the height, how’s it going to work? Ligne Roset has exquisite and unique pieces that look great and are comfortable, they hit it right on the head.
Monika: We love design, that’s our background. We love to get people excited about design. The big thing for us was to educate people about design and designers. We take the time to explain why that Eames chair is the price that it is, versus what’s available down the street for a thousand dollars. It’s up to us to take our time to talk to people and educate, not everyone’s going to be aware.
Jacob: You wouldn’t want someone to take a paper that you’ve written, put their name on it, change the title a little bit and send it off. There’s a lot of work involved to make something so simple work well.
What do you love most about your business/industry?
Jacob: Problem solving! In a different way. You have a space, you want your space to work, you spent a lot of money on a home, how’s it going to flow, how’s it going to move. We don’t sell furniture, we don’t sell anything! We guide people to make the right choice. There’s no pressure, we want you to have the right piece, that’s key. People come to us and they want a sectional, if they have a 500 sq ft place or bigger place, either way they want a sectional. It may not work, some stores may still set it, but we won’t.
Monika: We don’t just jam the space up with furniture.
Jacob: For example is the piece going to fit in an elevator? Will it fit around the corner. We’ve seen so much stuff that we can usually solve these problems really quickly.
What are some technological challenges you’ve faced as a business and how was CapitalTek able to help?
Jacob: Like any small business we’ve got our skills, and they are not technologically based, we’re designers. This was eating so much of our time in the beginning to try and get stuff up and understand new technology. We had so many issues.
Monika: From the technological standpoint we need a proper POS system. So that we can organize orders etc.
Jacob: CapitalTek helped us with us the little things, the important things that make the business run. Because of your customer service and quick response we were happy with your services.
You can learn more about Alteriors and the products they sell at their website.