July 16, 2009
By Tim Simard
In a shaky economy where many businesses are contracting just to survive, one Williston-based company is bucking the trend. In fact, Hampton Direct Inc. has expanded so fast in the past year that it’s had to move into a building that’s triple the size of its old one.
Observer photo by Tim Simard
Hampton Direct Inc. CEO Steve Heroux (from left), Human Resources Director Mary Wylde and CFO Tim George stand in what will be the company’s new 12,000 square-foot studio. This week, Hampton Direct is moving into a building on Hurricane Lane formerly occupied by KBA North America.
Formerly located on Pioneer Drive off South Brownell Road, Hampton Direct is moving this week to its new headquarters on Hurricane Lane. The company, which specializes in developing and distributing home goods, now occupies the former KBA North America building. The move will allow the company to expand its offices and create a studio to film and photograph its products for commercials and catalogs.
KBA, a global press manufacturer, moved its North American corporate headquarters to Dallas, Texas in June.
Last week, the former KBA building was in a state of fast transition. Carpets were torn up and the smell of fresh paint hung in the air in many corridors. In the few weeks since KBA exited the premises, renovators have been working feverishly to prepare for this week’s big move. All Hampton Direct employees are scheduled to move this Thursday.
For the company’s founder and CEO Steve Heroux, Hampton Direct’s expansion can be credited to the hard work and dedication of its nearly 40 employees.
“People in Vermont are so creative,” Heroux said. “We’re all about innovation and you see it pop up in so many aspects of this company.”
A growing company
While Hampton Direct might not be a recognizable brand name, the company has had major success in direct marketing sales of products manufactured all over the world. Many of the products are developed by employees or by inventors that employees have discovered. Heroux said the majority of the products developed by Hampton Direct are what he calls “problem solvers.”
A well-known item from the company is the Twin Draft Guard, an insulation device that protects from cold drafts on both sides of a door. Sales of the company’s merchandise took off when Hampton Direct began selling to retail stores, including Wal-Mart, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond. Heroux estimates his company sells in upwards of 49,000 stores all over the world.
Originally, the company only sold its products through catalogs, direct response commercials and the QVC television network.
The huge retail sales the company experienced prompted much of Hampton Direct’s current growth and expansion.
“When we first started here (in Vermont), we had only six employees,” Heroux said.
Heroux, along with his brother, Jean-Claude, founded the company in 1995 in East Hampton, Conn. Wishing to be closer to their native Canada, the Herouxs moved north to Vermont — first to South Burlington and then to Williston in 2000.
The company is currently hiring for six new positions, and six more new jobs may open in the coming weeks, according to Human Resources Director Mary Wylde. The company just hired a receptionist for its new lobby and is looking for candidates for other positions, including a sample room coordinator and retail sales manager.
The company has received large numbers of job applications from around the country, mostly due to layoffs in other businesses, according to Wylde.
“We’re seeing a high quality of candidates apply, which hasn’t always been the case,” Wylde said.
Heroux learned last year about KBA’s departure and inquired with the company if the building would be for sale. It was, and Hampton Direct bought the facility over the winter, leasing the space back to KBA for six months.
It’s all about growth and having the room to grow in moving into the former KBA building, said Tim George, the company’s chief financial officer.
“We want this to be our home for a long time to come,” George said.
The company’s Pioneer Drive offices and warehouse were admittedly tight, Heroux added. At 20,000 square feet, much of that being warehouse space for storage, there were often two to three employees packed into one tiny office.
The Hurricane Lane location will allow the company to breathe, Heroux said, with 65,000 square feet of office and warehouse space. Other additions will include new conference rooms, a cafeteria, game room and fitness center.
But one of the biggest additions will come in the form of a new studio space to show off Hampton Direct’s diverse product line. Heroux said plans are in place to build mock bedrooms and other home furnishing sets that could be used to film commercials and infomercials. Currently, commercials and catalog photo shoots are outsourced to production companies outside Vermont. The company will maintain its shipping facilities in Connecticut and California.
Heroux stressed that the success of Hampton Direct comes from the dedication of its workforce. By creating a fun and rewarding atmosphere to work in, he hopes to attract more dedicated employees as the company continues adding to its ranks.
“I love to hire people that are local,” Heroux said. “They choose to live here and are happy here.”