Contract furniture firm fills market need

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Business Today

Creative Office Solutions, which opened in Cape Girardeau in 2000, supplies contract furniture for schools, medical facilities, general businesses and government offices. Desks, filing cabinets, seating, reception area and breakroom furniture, shelving and more can be acquired -- often within one day.

"We cover a pretty big area," said John Shaw, who co-owns the business with Steve Stedman. "We go to just south of St. Louis, over to Fort Leonard Wood, throughout Southeast Missouri to Arkansas and over to Carbondale in Southern Illinois."

This past summer the firm supplied all the furniture for the new high school in Campbell, Mo., near the Arkansas border. Creative Office Solutions has the contract to supply classroom furniture to Southeast Missouri State University.

"That's a three-way contract between us, Southeast and Kruger International," said Shaw, adding that Kruger International is a major manufacturer based in Green Bay, Wis. Another major manufacturer the business works with is Global, which is based in Canada.

Stedman said Creative Office Solutions is the preferred supplier of classroom furniture to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

Shaw and Stedman started in the office furniture and supplies business years ago at U.S. Office Products, which was the former Craftsman Business Supply in Cape. They started their own business four years ago on Thomas Drive, near Ford Groves on North Kingshighway. They have a warehouse on Broadway that is well stocked, mostly with chairs.

"We can take a chair from the warehouse and deliver it to a customer to try for a few days," said Shaw. "Sitting in a chair for five minutes in a showroom isn't going to tell a customer anything."

Stedman said the business has access to about 75 lines of furniture. He and Shaw deliver and install most furniture ordered by customers, but they subcontract the larger jobs. Much of their work is through word-of-mouth, but Kruger International has a market development program that identifies building sites and sets up appointments between Stedman and Shaw and prospective clients.

About a year ago, Creative Office Solutions outfitted the new education building at Mingo Jobs Corps near Puxico. The business also works with various healthcare facilities in the region.

BIG -- Creative Office Solutions has the contract to supply classroom furniture to Southeast Missouri State University.

PICS -- BT/Paul Walker

(1) John Shaw, left, and Steve Stedman, owners of Creative Office Solutions in Cape Girardeau study a computer drawing of an office layout for a client.

(2) The office furniture business has access to about 75 lines of furniture. The main manufacturers are Kruger International and Global.

(3) From the left are John Shaw and his wife, Mary Jo, and Steve Stedman and his wife, Donna. The wives are part-time employees of Creative Office Solutions.

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