Kentucky home leisure business guided by family values
Steepleton, the home leisure company that calls itself “Kentucky’s choice for home entertainment, games and outdoor fun,” has evolved over the years, but the core remains a sharp focus on family and customer service.
The company, which has locations in Lexington and Louisville, was started in 1910 by Clyde and Claude Steepleton. Initially, the business sold billiard tables and bowling equipment, as well as serviced local billiard halls and bowling alleys.
In the 1930s, Steepleton stepped into the manufacturing space and started to build its own pool tables. Along the way, the business’s retail side grew through 2010, when it transitioned out of manufacturing into 100% retail.
That decision was made by current owner Jim Graven and two of his children, Allison and Gunnar Graven, who run the day-to-day operations of Steepleton. Jim Graven purchased the company in 1980 and has worked there since the mid 1960s.
Now that the business is a family affair, Gunnar is grateful that he, his father and his sister have an effective working dynamic. He says his mother comes to clean the store every Thursday, too.
“I think she does that just to see her son and daughter,” Gunnar jokes.
In the business of fun
Jacuzzi, FROG, Spa Pure
Lane Venture, Winston, Jensen Leisure, Berlin Gardens, Woodard, Lloyd Flanders, Goalrilla, Woodplay, Springfree, Outdoor Greatroom, Big Green Egg, Weber
Allison Graven, Steepleton’s general manager, says what she enjoys most about her job is the people. “I love when families come in with their kids to look at swing sets or trampolines, and the kids light up while trying them out,” she says. “Or when a family comes in with drawings or plans for a backyard renovation, and we get to help them pick out the perfect Jacuzzi or firepit.”
Gunnar Graven, the store’s vice president, adds that products like its hot tubs are enjoyable ‘wants’ for customers. “It’s a purchase that brings relief and happiness,” he says. “They’re buying the hot tub for family time, for therapy and so forth. It’s an added benefit to their house.”
The company offers Jacuzzi and Hydropool hot tubs and swim spas, which make up a large percentage of Steepleton’s sales. But no matter what product they’re selling, the Steepleton team wants customers to come back again and again.
“I want to sell customers a playset for their 2-year-old,” Gunnar says. “Then I want them to buy a trampoline or basketball goal when their kids are 10 or 11. Then I want them to say, ‘We need to keep these teenagers inside and entertain them, so we’re going to buy a pool table. And you know what, Mom and Dad would love to have a hot tub outside, too.’ ”
That feeling stems from the Steepletons’ focus on customer retention. “We pride ourselves on continuing to keep that customer in our family of products and brands,” Gunnar says.
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Allison wholeheartedly agrees.
“I love it when customers who have purchased a swing set come back because the kids have grown up and they are ready for a new item,” she says. “It’s amazing how fast the time goes by.”
The nitty gritty
Steepleton installs and services every product they sell, from hot tubs to play sets. Because of that, the company makes a point to ensure every step of the process is easy and done well for the customer.
For its Jacuzzi hot tub sales and customer service, Steepleton provides a chemical/usage class on the day of delivery and gives customers a cheat sheet for any questions they may have.
“We don’t leave a delivery until the customer is comfortable with the day-to-day use of the Jacuzzi,” Allison says.
The company also sends emails to new hot tub owners to remind them when it’s time to check their filters or change their water. The company’s full-time technicians are available to service the hot tubs within a day or two of a request.
Because Steepleton is in the business of leisure products, the company has seen an uptick in sales since the pandemic began.
“No doubt about it, the lack of dollars going to customers’ family vacations or travel has come straight to the store,” Gunnar says. “We’re very fortunate that demand for all of our product lines has increased.”
To stay ahead of schedule and make sure they can keep inventory, Gunnar says they analyze trends and sales history daily.
“In today’s industry, whoever has inventory wins,” he says. “Customers want it, and they want it now.”
Looking to the future, the Graven family’s goal for Steepleton are simple: keep growing. “Whether it be more stores or different family-based leisure products, we are always on the hunt,” Allison says.