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BIG PLANS:
Richlin International
President and
Founder Richard
Corbett and
General Manager
Kelly Hall. PHOTO Brian Tietz

BIG PLANS: Richlin International President and Founder Richard Corbett and General Manager Kelly Hall. [PHOTO: Brian Tietz]

The interior design firm Richlin International easily could have withered during the Great Recession. Instead, it’s flourishing, thanks to some nimble pivoting and willingness to adapt to a changed economy.

Established in 1999, the Estero-based company began as Richlin Interiors, with a focus on interior design services for both homeowners and the trade. But when the economy went south, there was less demand for that kind of work. So the company chose to officially embrace a direction it had already started heading.

“We just decided to focus our business more on the products we were so passionate about when we were in the design business,” says Richard Corbett, the company’s president and founding partner. “It was an evolution more than a shift.”

The firm had already been working with Poliform, an Italian company offering modern kitchen cabinetry, closet systems and other furniture products. It saw a lack of access in Southwest Florida to these kinds of product lines and began forging relationships with other contemporary European and American brands sush as Viva, Oikos, Fantini Rubinetti, and Kasthall to serve as their exclusive distributor locally. Richlin also oversees all installation projects using its product lines from design to completion.

That change in focus worked well with what was going on in the housing market at that time. “When the economy dropped off, we had a large void of consumers buying and remodeling houses,” says Corbett. “We shifted to going to see the architects and the larger developers and builders to let them know the types of products that we could bring to the table. Everybody was looking for something that would make them stand out in the crowd, that made them different from anyone else. And that’s where we fit in.”

The new direction necessitated staff changes (fewer interior designers, more salespeople and installers) and buildouts of new showrooms at the Miromar Design Center so that potential customers could see the products in real life. “We were mainly just offices as an interior design firm,” says Corbett. “It’s been a significant investment, but it’s been well planned one step at a time. Over the last seven years, we’ve been constantly reinvesting.”

Though the company has been making this transition for years, it just recently made an official announcement to the public about its new focus and rebrand as Richlin International. An in-house team had been taking time to develop the right logo, graphics and other communications-related materials, and the company this year signed on with marketing agency Ella Creations to further promote its work.

“Sometimes it’s better not to rush and to go one step at a time until you find the perfect fit,” says Corbett. “We’ve been of the mindset for a long time that if it doesn’t fit, it’s not meant for us. [Ella Creations] brought something to table that we were looking for for a long time.”

This change in direction has been positive for the company, but Corbett doesn’t want things to move too quickly. “We’re growing with momentum, and it’s nice to see,” he says. “But I don’t want to grow with an explosion. The ability to shift is necessary for a lot of businesses in order to navigate an ever-changing marketplace. Doing it well can be the difference between success and failure.

“As you go through your evolution you need to be patient,” says Corbett. “It’s not something you just plan and flip a switch. You have to plan it slowly and methodically and adapt to what’s going on to the market. If you cannot adapt to the market, you won’t survive.”

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