When you look at the flashy 4066-square-foot Digital Installers showroom, it may be difficult to imagine the shop’s beginnings out of owner Rusty Deeble’s garage. But as his business began to grow, then shrink during the 2008 housing crisis, then grow again, he knew the importance of being able to show off his company’s skills to prospective clients through a demo system that had some “wow” to it.
In 2012, he was able to buy the building in Long Beach, CA that Digital Installers still resides in, but it was a large space, and he wanted to make sure it paid off for the company. “It wasn’t much more than the rent I was paying, but I was still scared to have more overhead,” says Deeble. “I thought that, since the space was twice the size that I needed, I could get additional revenue by renting part of the facility. So I created a cool boardroom and a cool family room space, and then I rented the boardroom out at 45 to 85 bucks an hour, and it started generating business. We were renting the boardroom for depositions and all sorts of things.
“The rentals were paying for our building, so we figured that if we created a space that was fun and we rented it out more, we could make additional revenue and show off what we can do. We filled the space with audio and video, but as a house experience — not like Best Buy with 50 TVs. We made it a decor designer’s space.”
Check out more demo spaces in the 2021 Showroom Showcase Gallery!
It has since grown to include a kitchen space that shows off the power of smart lighting, a 2-channel listening area, 8K television demo, and an outdoor AV area. In 2019, Design Installers won ProSource’s Dream Theater showroom makeover contest, and used those winnings to add a dedicated home theater space to the showroom. And, just recently, Deeble added a golf simulator.
“I love golf, and many of our clients are avid golfers,” says Deeble. “With Covid, getting on courses was more difficult, so I wanted to learn more about golf simulators, and the best way to do that was installing one here! We built one, and it came out really, really good. It’s a lot of fun. And now there’re so many people getting excited to come here to try it and be around this technology.”
The Host with the Most
The versatile space is much more than a showroom. Deeble plans on resuming events — movie nights, trivia nights, corporate events…even birthday parties for clients’ families. “I would rather donate and give free corporate and professional events to give back to our customers,” he says. Deeble also donates events to the community, and parties there are often auctioned off as prizes for local organizations. The space is also used for industry training, such as courses from the AIA.
“Once you build the showroom, people just don’t come in,” says Deeble. “How do you get people to come in? That’s why I started hosting. And now I get 25,000 people to come in each year. Now everybody knows we can do a theater or a golf simulator.
Showroomers and Sales
One of the main arguments against having a showroom involves “showroomers” — people who come into a shop, take up the staff’s time, and then buy the products elsewhere. Deeble doesn’t see that as much of a deterrent. For one thing, the location of his shop precludes it from receiving much foot traffic. For another, he wishes anyone luck who can re-create what he has got there.
“Typically, we want to try and have everybody that we give an estimate to come into the showroom so they know what we’re doing,” he says, “but our designs aren’t ‘buy a TV, install it yourself.’ Our designs are typically full control systems. We don’t have many customers who do off-the-shelf products.”
As far as how the showroom fits into sales, Deeble explains that he doesn’t talk specific brands with visitors, but rather the experience of what they want. He can show them things they didn’t even know existed — such as in-wall subwoofers, outdoor subwoofers, and linear lighting — and things they have heard about but have not yet experienced, including 8K video and VR.
Like everyone else, Deeble saw his business change due to Covid-19 — especially in the showroom. With events, parties, and other rentable experiences on hold, Digital Installers saw the opportunity to upgrade with the golf simulator and VR. They also created a very detailed virtual showroom that can be accessed through the website. Even with Covid restrictions beginning to lift, Deeble sees the virtual version as here to stay.
“I’ll send the virtual showroom link to prospective clients,” he says. “I prefer them to come in, but if they can’t get here, then the virtual version will let them see what we can do.”
Ultimately, the Digital Installers showroom demonstrates to customers that the company is in for the long haul. “People see that we own the building and that we’re not going anywhere,” says Deeble. “Around 95 percent of our industry is two- or three-person companies, slamming trunks and installing out of their cars. And it’s not a bad thing — I was there — but I’m very proud to say that I’m around the same price as those people, and I have something to show for it.
“It’s not a showroom, like Best Buy,” Deeble concludes. “People think of a showroom as a place to be sold. We don’t want to showroom to be sold — we want to provide an experience center to have fun.”
Digital Installers, Inc.
Location: Long Beach, CA
Showroom Dimensions (square feet): 4066 sq. ft.
Brands Featured: Control4, Sony, Samsung, Sunbrite, Fullswing Simulators, Klipsch, Bowers & Wilkins, JBL Synthesis, TruAudio, Cary Audio, Nakymatone, Acoustic Innovations, Screen Innovations, European Rolling Shutters, Artnovion, Middle Atlantic, American Lighting, Loxone Lighting, Josh.ai, LeGrand, Hunter Douglas, Qmotion, Infratech, AG Neovo, Salamander, Pakedge
Fun Fact: Only until guests regain control of their emotions after visiting our famous candy bar, do they notice that we have an eight-seat dedicated movie theater, mid-century modern living room, full smart kitchen, outdoor living space, and a Fullswing golf simulator. It is truly a fun space that doesn’t feel like a “showroom.” Digital Installers showroom, a.k.a. “DI Studios,” is a luxury experience that inspires fun and creative technology design.