Our Design Story
Nestled amidst the shops and eateries that line Main Street in Windham, Tip Top Furniture Decorating Den opens a window onto a world of interior design rarely seen in the small towns that dot the landscape of the Catskill Forest Preserve. But owner Ken Dudley has always been a believer in serving small communities. He founded his main store, Tip Top Furniture, in Freehold in 1978 with the idea of meeting the home furnishing needs of people in the area, and he has built that business into one of the most respected home centers in the region.
Tip Top sets itself apart by offering a full service operation that assists customers from start to finish with free design consultations and warranties that are backed up by their own labor. Their new decorating den in Windham is a relatively small storefront setting, but it enables mountaintop customers to be more easily connected to the 28,000 square foot main location in Freehold.
Tip Top’s salesperson in Windham, Jane Ohl, works closely with their interior designer, Donna Mae Dudley, to cater to their clients’ needs. Donna Mae is Ken’s daughter and Ken’s son, Brian, also works in the business. Brian is their all around trouble-shooter and was instrumental in getting them set-up at the new location. Ken’s wife, Anna, helps run the main store, while Donna Mae’s husband, Adam, is in charge of repairing furniture.
There is a sense of pride at every level of their operation in the service this family-run business provides to the community, and their entire staff from top to bottom is invested in the company’s success. “We do profit sharing for all of our employees,” says Ken Dudley with an air of confidence in his business acumen. “This approach enables us to get everyone invested in the success of the company, as opposed to having salespeople work on commission, where they might feel pressured to sell a piece of furniture regardless of individual need.” Instead, their mission is to meet each new customer with openness to the vision they have for furnishing their home, and the company works at establishing longstanding relationships with people from all over the region who appreciate the personal touch.
Donna Mae’s expertise lies in her ability to interact with the customer in order to help them realize their vision as well as to work within a particular budget. She and her staff balance their attention between a range of customers, from the person seeking an individual piece of furniture to families with homes in need of complete furnishing and every situation in between. They have brands from Flexsteel to Ashley and products include furniture, bedding, floor covering and window treatments. They recently purchased a 50,000 square foot warehouse in order to enable themselves to clear out their current storage area and create a bargain center within their main facility.
Donna Mae is quick to point out exactly what a customer will get for their money, revealing her clear knowledge that honesty and integrity are the traits that create lasting relationships with customers regardless of whether or not they purchase something in the immediate moment. She understands the need some have for an affordable replacement piece of furniture and can offer advice on how the quality of a bargain item might compare to a moderate upgrade, enabling clear decision making based on personal need. But her talents truly come alive when customers request assistance in designing the layout for a room or an entire home.
Using computer aided design technology, she will take the dimensions of the space they are working with and create a floor plan that reflects the client’s desired goals. Then she will meticulously go about handpicking items from their vast array of suppliers to create plausible options for the homeowner to work with. “You have to have a knack for this stuff,” she says with the same confidence in her end of the business as her father displays in his. “The ability to bring all these different elements together is not really something you can learn. You either have it or you don’t and the proof is simply whether or not it works for the customer.”
Tip Top has longstanding associations with businesses in related fields such as lighting and cabinetry that Donna Mae draws upon to implement their full service approach. And on the back end of things, Ken Dudley is not afraid to utilize his buying power to jawbone manufacturers to make good on their guarantees if there is ever a problem.
Tip Top has always had a presence on the mountain with customers who have ventured into the valley to the nearby town of Freehold or have invited Donna Mae to make a trip up to their house and begin a design plan. She says, “Even when designing the layout for an entire house, it often just starts with one piece that a client likes and then you build out from there.” And she loves to work within a variety of styles from traditional layouts to the open floor plans so common to houses on the mountaintop. Their decorating den in Windham reflects her eclectic sensibilities as one is immediately struck by the rustic elegance of the furniture within.
Donna Mae now divides her time between Freehold and Windham and she is in regular collaboration with Jane Ohl on the mountaintop. Open Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or by appointment, the decorating den is located at 5338 Main Street in Windham, and is a gateway to one of the most unique businesses in the area.
Garan Santicola is a writer currently living in the Catskill Mountains. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.