If you have a spare million and need a place to hang your polo mallet, Steve Chefan, president of Stevenson Building & Design Inc., is ready to set you up in style in Florida's trendy Boca Raton.
Chefan's stock in trade is million-dollar-plus luxury houses, all completely decorated right down to the towels in the bathrooms. No agonizing over the proper arrangement for the modular sofa, or where to put the Ming vase: Chefan and his wife Judy take care of everything. They will even color-coordinate your bathroom tissue.
Chefan started Stevenson in 1969 after selling his chain of 15 Jack Stevens Clothes stores and moving from Detroit to Florida. "I felt I could merchandise houses like I did clothing," he says. "You buy a home the same way you would buy a dress or an automobile -- to reflect your taste."
And plenty of people seem to enjoy shopping for a house as if it were another fashion accessory. Stevenson's revenues have gone from just $3.2 million in 1979 to $20 million in 1983. "We've identified a market that was there but just wasn't being served," he explains. "There's a fallacy in our society that a woman isn't fulfilled until she decorates her own home." But, according to Stevenson, after she decorates one or two, she realizes that the job isn't all it's cracked up to be, and she is more than happy to turn it over to someone else. Most of Chefan's customers are buying second or third homes.
Of course, the booming popularity of Boca Raton, a short Rolls ride down the coast from gilt-edged Palm Beach, has not hurt his business. Chefan's palatial houses fit the area's unabashedly luxurious life-style like a kid glove. Chefan insists, however, that his customers are interested in more than mere luxury. When they buy a multi-million-dollar house, he says, they are also making "a sound business investment."
DONNA FENN is the author of Upstarts! How Gen-Y Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success, an exploration of the ways Gen Y is changing the entrepreneurial landscape.
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