One man’s trash, the late Carrol Holshouser would tell you, is another man’s treasure.
In the late 1970s, Holshouser noticed piles of aluminum patio furniture being thrown out into the streets in Myrtle Beach by hotel and resort owners, when the straps became frayed or broken. Realizing that the frames were still sound, he collected them and figured out a way to replace the straps.
Working alongside his wife, Jane, out of a garage-turned-workshop, Holshouser became an entrepreneur before the word was widely used and bootstrapped—or furniture-strapped—his way into a business, Custom Outdoor Furniture & Restrapping.
Now in its third generation, Carrol and Jane’s daughter, Sarah Marie “Sam” Cox is now the chief executive officer; her daughter, Olivia Cox, is the chief marketing officer; and her brother, Gregg Holshouser is the chief operating officer.
The three showrooms in Garden City, S.C. feature a variety of seating options, tables, umbrellas, and the like — and it has been having the ability to pivot from commercial clients to homeowners and back again, using those showrooms that have helped the business weather Covid-19, Sam says.
“We do mainly contract and commercial sales and repairs for the hotels, HOAs, and property management groups in Myrtle Beach, but we also have a retail store,” she says. “During 2020, our focus shifted to retail since the hotels were closed and HOA pools were closed. Our retail sales grew in 2020, while contract sales were reduced.”
And just as quickly, the situation reversed.
“In 2021, contract sales came back abundantly and we continued to have higher than normal retail sales,” she says. “So, the pandemic changed our business for the better!”
Given the emphasis on retail sales for the past two years, Custom Outdoor is putting in a new point of sale system to better control inventory, while at the same time, it is working on business succession planning, as it is a family-owned business. As it does, the business will continue to set itself apart from the competition—and bring more customers in the door—by continuing to specialize in repairs.
“We have a repair workshop where we do custom re-strapping and re-slinging,” Sam says. “We use that to build awareness of all of our business, and we often find that once a person gets to know us by coming to see us for repairs, they return later to purchase new furniture and accessories.”
She says her business hasn’t been affected by either an increase in full-line furniture stores going into outdoor or in competitors who compete using online sales.
“We tell our customers who call and come into the store the advantages of working with a brick-and-mortar business, plus the advantage of our repair shop,” she explains. “We do not sell online at this time. We use our website to refer customers to see all the different types of furniture that we offer.”
What’s her best advice for struggling casual retailers?
“Develop a relationship with your local hospitality association to meet local hotel owners and property management businesses,” she says. “Also reach out to local real estate offices who have property management divisions. All of these businesses will purchase in quantity.”