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Apollo Award nominees: Summer House, Tukwila, Wash.

Nominees meet their challenges head on

Kristine Ellis -- Casual Living, September 14, 2011

Neutral fabrics combineNeutral fabrics combine with checkerboard accent pillows in this conversation group display.

WHILE SOME RETAILERS HUNKER DOWN TO WAIT out bad weather and trying times, this year's group of Apollo Award nominees stands out for their determination to create their own destinies. Their ability to adapt is exceeded only by their drive to succeed. This group sets the bar for industry excellence in today's marketplace.
Finalists will be honored and winners announced at the Apollo Awards banquet at the Field Museum on Sept. 14, during the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market in Chicago.

Multi-store | Summer House, Tukwila, Wash

THIRTY YEARS AFTER THE PATTERSON FAMILY opened its first Summer House retail location in Tacoma, Wash., it found itself having to make the difficult decision this winter to leave the market, at least temporarily.
     "Our lease ended in December, and based on negotiations we decided to just get out," said Todd Patterson, president. "By then it was too late to start looking for a new location and have it ready to go by February or March."
     There will probably eventually be another Summer House in Tacoma, but in the meantime Todd Patterson and his sisters - Kim Benford and Diane Patterson - are more focused on the remaining two Seattle-area Summer House showrooms.
     Kim Benford manages the 4,700-sq.-ft . Bellevue showroom as well as helps Todd with buying. Diane Patterson manages the finances and administrative duties, while Todd oversees all operations including the Tukwila location in South Seattle, which has about 9,500-square feet of retail space.
     The siblings' parents opened Summer House in 1980 carrying primarily indoor wicker and rattan products. Over

Kim BenfordSeated, from left, Kim Benford, Todd Patterson and Diane Patterson. Top row, from left, Neil Nartker and Jon Luedke
time, the business moved more and more into outdoor products and is now exclusively an outdoor furniture retailer with a concentration on the mid-to mid-high price range.
     Although colder temperatures hung on into July this year, Summer House had a good season thanks to the family's agility in adapting to conditions.
     "Once we got into mid-June, we stepped up our advertising and did a few more promotions that we hadn't scheduled. It cut into our margins some but kept us in front of our customers," Patterson said.
     Because the Northwest has such a short season, the company's inventory control is focused more on ending the season clean rather than running at a minimum.
     For 2012, Patterson is considering cutting one or two manufacturers to simplify operations but otherwise staying the course.
     "We've been doing this a long time and have some good relationships with a lot of vendors," Patterson said.
     This is the first Apollo nomination for Summer House.

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