Dayton Home: Navigating the Challenges

 Dayton Home: Navigating the Challenges

Kitchens by Design learning to overcome tariffs and labor shortages

Eric Spangler

Cathy Johnson says she and her husband, Miles Johnson, owner of Kitchens by Design, are successful and “very blessed” to be able to make a living as the one-stop shop for kitchen and bathroom remodeling in southwest Ohio.

Not that there haven’t been challenges thrown in the way during the 30-plus years the couple has been in business. Today, for example, the Johnsons are facing price pressures from recent tariffs imposed by the United States on certain imports along with a shortage of labor in the skilled-trade industry.

The tariffs and labor shortage hasn’t affected the amount of business the Kitchens by Design is doing, says Cathy Johnson. “We’re staying as busy as we have always been,” she says.

But the tariffs and labor issues are making the Johnsons think a little differently these days. “It is a different animal than it was 10, 15 years ago,” says Johnson.

The tariffs are causing the cost of materials used in the remodeling business to increase, she says. That includes countertops, cabinetry, major home appliances and lighting, Johnson says.

“Many of our vendors have sent us notifications saying they think (the price increases) will be anywhere from 3 to 10 percent, some go up to 15 percent,” she says. Most of the price increases are driven by tariffs on the components and hardware of cabinets, appliances and lighting, she says.

“Several of the companies we deal with are American made,” says Johnson. “But even their pieces and parts to put the American made parts together sometimes come from China or other countries so pricing is certainly an issue.”

That’s why it’s important when developing a contract to account for the cost of materials not only based on the current price, but four months later when the remodeling job may actually start, she says.

“It’s a bit a juggling act to make sure you’re covered in all of your known expenses let alone these things that may crop up that aren’t completely known,” Johnson says.

Another challenge faced by Kitchens by Design and others in the remodeling industry is the shortage of available skilled workers. “There’s just more jobs than there are laborers, especially when you get into something that’s kind of a specialized skill like kitchen and bath installations,” she says.

That labor shortage is causing a slight delay in starting remodeling jobs, she says. “It’s pushing our time limit out more,” Johnson says. “Where we might have been able to (start) a job in three months a couple of years ago it might be five months now.”

Johnson encourages young people to consider developing trade skills. “With trade school you come out with far less debt (than college) and you have a skill that is portable, it can go to every state and country,” she says.

Need an example? Just look at Miles Johnson.

“My husband had all these skills and took them and did exactly what I’m saying and started his own business …working out of the back of the truck,” says Johnson. “And now we own a very nice brick-and-mortar business.”

All from learning to navigate and conquer the challenges that continually crop up in the business world.