Bath Fitter expands into Clearwater Avenue shop

Bath Fitter Central Washington has more than tripled its space with a move to a higher traffic shop at 4207 W. Clearwater Ave. in Kennewick.

The new location provides Bath Fitter with 3,300 square feet that includes a 1,000-square-foot showroom to stage seven full-size bath/shower setups representing their product lines, an office and conference room. The remaining space is devoted to storing completed customer packages, supplies for the installation team and tradeshow materials.

General Manager Andrew Starnino, who owns Bath Fitter’s Central Washington and Spokane stores, said the company got away with their former 800-square-foot space because “most sales happen in the home … so, it’s kind of allowed us to do pretty well even without a showroom. It will be the icing on the cake.”

Now, Starnino said, “people can come in and feel if this shower or tub is going to be big enough for them. We’ve learned over the years that once (customers have) seen your product, they’re going to be more likely to move forward.”

The Clearwater building was formerly home to Black Diamond 4×4, a parts and installation store.

Bath Fitter divided the 6,000-square-foot building into two separate suites at a cost of about $35,000 since they did most of the work themselves.

Silver Line Electric and Tri-Cities Glass provided additional services.

The divided space serves the dual purpose of creating a 2,700-square-foot tenant space for lease, as well as room to expand as the local franchise continues to grow.

“We’ve gained good momentum. I think we could gain a lot more,” Starnino said, who added that thanks to the company’s steady growth in the area, he is looking at hiring the region’s second full-time sales rep soon.

Bath Fitter rented its former shop at 1328 W. Third Ave., Unit 4, from the Port of Kennewick. It “will be put back on the market as available to rent once their lease with the port has expire(d),” said Amber Hanchette, the port’s director of real estate and operations.

“Bath Fitter is a great story. They have graduated out of the Port of Kennewick’s Oak Street Industrial Park and into a larger space in the private sector where they can also have a showroom,” she said.

Bath Fitter Central Washington serves the Tri-Cities, Wenatchee, Ellensburg, Yakima, Walla Walla and eastern Oregon, as far south as Pendleton. The territory of Starnino’s Spokane store reaches to Ritzville and much of Idaho.

Bath Fitter, a Montreal-based bathroom renovator with 220 locations across the U.S. and Canada, specializes in the remodeling of tub and shower spaces, using a unique technique they have developed and perfected over the course of their 30-plus years in business.

Bath Fitter consultants take precise measurements of customers’ current tub or shower setups.

Customers can then select from a product line that includes acrylic bathtubs and shower liners, free standing bathtub and shower bases, acrylic seamless walls, domed ceilings, tub and shower doors, accessories and wainscoting.

In the case of a bath tub remodel, using the data collected at the customer’s home, Bath Fitter manufactures a new, custom acrylic shell at their plants in the U.S. and Canada that fits over the old tub, significantly reducing the cost of renovation by minimizing the demolition work required.

Turnaround time on orders is about four weeks and most jobs can be installed in one day. There’s no need to hire a plumber or demolition person because Bath Fitter handles all parts of the tub/shower remodel, Starnino said.

Starnino said that in addition to “functional fixer” and “aesthetic updater” residential and commercial customers, Bath Fitter also serves many elderly and disabled customers looking to improve accessibility to their bathing facilities.

The walk-in bath tubs advertised on TV can cost tens of thousands of dollars, Starnino said, putting them out of reach for many who need them. Though Bath Fitter doesn’t sell walk-in bath tubs, it does regularly transform tub-and-shower combos into walk-in safety showers featuring support bars and a seat at a fraction of the cost.

Bath Fitter’s Tri-City location employs five full-time employees, and 18 service the Spokane location’s territory.

Some Tri-Citians might remember a brief stint from 1998 to 2003 when Bath Fitter first appeared in the area under Brian Goulet’s ownership, who has since found his own construction company, IBK Co., and two restaurant/bars, 3 Eyed Fish Wine Bar and LU LU Craft Bar + Kitchen, with his wife Cindy Goulet.

Starnino started out at Bath Fitter’s corporate office, when he had the opportunity to open his own franchise. He carefully studied the cities and regions across the U.S. where Bath Fitter was looking to expand its market, ultimately passing up major cities like Atlanta in favor of Spokane.

He said he based his decision on the advertising costs. “I focused on marketing. The cost of marketing here is not as much as in a big city – (you’re) able to get a lot more exposure for your dollar,” he said.

Though he took into consideration the region’s average home price and age, per capita income, and population as well, Starnino said marketing costs were most important since their line of work doesn’t involve a lot of repeat customers. They are continually having to attract new ones.

That’s why, in addition to TV advertisements, Bath Fitter makes a point of manning a booth at local trade, home and garden and senior expos for greater exposure.

After their first year in business in Spokane, Starnino opened the Tri-City location in 2013. “I knew expansion opportunities to all of Central Washington were going to be good. In the first 12 months, we already had sold 100 jobs,” he said.

“Our locations are some of the largest,” Starnino said. “Our opportunities are larger than what you’re going to get in Atlanta … We’re close to contending with some of the big, big cities.”

Adding to this success, Bath Fitter recently landed a large contract to remodel 86 showers at Fairchild Air Force Base’s on-base hotel near Spokane.

For leasing information on Bath Fitter’s new tenant space, prospective tenants can check out the listing for 4209 W. Clearwater Avenue at NAI Tri-Cities, represented by Derrick Stricker.

Bath Fitter Central Washington: 4207 W. Clearwater Ave., Kennewick; 509-828-4028; Facebook.

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