South County Section: Kitchens Direct
The way to Kitchens Direct is not quite direct. But tucked away in a corner of Cherry Lane Plaza, a small pocket mall in Wakefield, is a cabinetry and countertop business run by two highly talented women. Manager Sharon McAleer is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design Interior Design Certificate Program who taught Kitchen and Bath Design there for five years; and Sharon’s designer, Arleen Aguilera, graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Celebrating her 10th anniversary running Kitchens Direct, Sharon explains her experiences with pride and pleasure. “Think about it,” she says. “The kitchen is where you spend much, maybe most, of your time. I mean, where do most folks tend to congregate at a gathering? So we listen carefully to what people want, then it’s a matter of managing expectations.”
Sharon describes taking the client from the design stage all the way to the job site. “Arleen is a superb designer,” says Sharon. “Working as a team, we guide our clients through the initial design concept to the finished plan and along the way we may suggest asking the advice of specialists — a lighting designer, for example. We’ve developed a network of people we know and trust.”
But even with talented people managing the process, the road is not without bumps and an occasional pothole. “This business can be both satisfying and distressing,” says Sharon. “Lately, it seems like people have developed an eye, you might say, because of shows like HGTV. So here you are dealing with certain expectations along with the inconvenience and stress that go with any renovation.”
Describing the need to sometimes smooth out wrinkles in the process, Sharon is quick to compliment the contractors she works with. “Obviously, folks just don’t walk off the street into our showroom. The internet has been helpful and we’ve earned a good ‘word-of-mouth’ reputation, but much of our work is generated by referrals from our network of contractors.”
The chance to see her contractors is one of the reasons Sharon enjoys riding the ferry to Block Island, especially in the winter months. “My niece lives on the island and I’ve made some friends there and I just like Block Island. But the winter trips are fun because I get to talk with the various tradespeople who do work for us. I enjoy sharing stories plus it’s a chance to do some networking.”
Emphasizing the full-service aspect of Kitchens Direct, Sharon describe the way that she and Arleen like to “prepare a palette of choices” for a client. They agree that a kitchen is a special place, that building a kitchen or renovating one is a special situation and deserves what they care about most — attention to detail.
If you visit Kitchens Direct’s showroom at 40 Charles Street in the Cherry Lane Plaza in Wakefield, you’ll get to meet Gus, a beautiful and very friendly Australian shepherd (a blue merle for those of you who are Aussie lovers). But since Sharon and Arleen are often out of the office on a job, you may choose to call for an appointment at (401) 783-3100.