Coffee Break with Kris Zimmer, Manager/Buyer, On the Deck

Address: 124 E. Wisconsin Ave. (Highway 16), Oconomowoc

Web site:

Industry: Casual furniture

Number of employees: 15

Education: Bachelor’s degree in marketing, Drake University

Family: Husband, Steve, and sons, Brendan and Aidan

What was the smartest thing your company did in the past year?
“We actually had to plan for the worse, and it was good we did. The state closed Highwy 16, the street we’re on, for construction from April to August, which is basically our entire season. But besides construction, we had record rainfalls, Interstate 94 closed for one third of our second-biggest month, high gas prices and the bad economy. But because of our planning – choosing the right assortment and changing our advertising – for what could be a down year, we were able to overcome our hurdles and are now preparing for next year.”

What’s new at your company?
“Our product lineup. We change what we have to offer every year to keep up with demand and fashion. We are very excited for the new product that is coming in daily.  The trends in outdoor wicker and cast aluminum furniture are cutting edge. We are also expanding our assortment of teak and other wood furniture.” 

Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?
“This spring we will need to add to our staff. We have been very lucky to have a strong, loyal sales staff that knows our products. We also couldn’t survive without our warehouse manager. However, we will need to add to our staff this spring.” 

What will be your company’s main challenges in the next year?

“There are so many unknowns in the retail world. Our biggest challenge could be the economy, but that will hopefully improve with time.”

What’s the hottest trend in your industry?
“Casual furniture is a fashion industry. We have many new trends. Deep-seating furniture for the outdoors, like sofas and lounge chairs, is very popular. More people are using their backyards as another room of the house. They want their furniture to be comfortable and fashionable, as well as practical. Outdoor wicker is probably the hottest trend right now.”

Do you have a business mantra?
“Customer service is our No. 1 goal. We try to make a relationship with our customers and help them find what works best for their environment. We don’t work on commission; we work as a group to help the customer instead of being pushy salespeople.”

From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?
“Cliff White, my dad. He and my mom are the owners of the business, but they are ‘retired’ in South Carolina. I have worked for my dad for 15 years. He has taught me how to run a business – to be strong, decisive in business and to be fair and loyal to employees. He also taught me to enjoy what I’m doing and to have fun with it – life’s too short to not enjoy your career.”

What was the best advice you ever received?
“You can’t do everything, so focus on what’s most important. Also, put everything in writing.”

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career?
“Starting this store – we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! This started out as a small hobby store. My dad saw the building and said, ‘Wouldn’t this be a great place for a patio furniture store? Who knew we would still be going strong 11 years later?”

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