Meet Frances Koremenos, she’s been designing kitchens for seven decades. Needless to say, Frances has extensive industry knowledge and experience. Here is her story.
In 1944, while a senior in high school, Frances began her career working in the office at Hammond Plumbing & Home Supply. Once she graduated, she decided to stay on full time.
“I enjoyed learning about products pertaining to building houses. My boss, Lewis Goldstein, encouraged me to learn what I wanted. We carried kitchen and bath cabinets and I fell in love with that.”
They offered two-week training programs where she learned how to draw perspectives and how to figure ‘problem’ kitchens. Just a year later Frances became a Qualified Kitchen Specialist. She was always eager to learn and soak up as much information as she could.
Frances went on to meet her husband, George. They had similar life goals. George had been working for other wholesalers for years and he and Fran wanted to begin their own venture. In 1956, the newlyweds decided to have a go on their own and Koremen Co. was born.
Interestingly, they began with a van which doubled as a traveling office and warehouse selling copper tubing and fittings. At the time everyone was converting from coal fire furnaces to oil burners so there was demand in that industry. As time went by, they kept adding to products they could sell. They met new representatives and added a line of kitchen cabinets to their offering. Just two years later, in 1958, they opened a 4,000 sq. ft warehouse in the rural cornfields of Schererville, Indiana.
“Sometime around 1960, one of the plumbing representatives suggested we carry kitchen cabinets. I loved that, since I already had experience. That was the beginning. Our showroom was small, but we still displayed several lines of cabinetry.”
Fast forward to 1971 and that warehouse had expanded three times its original size.
In 1972, they opened a lavish $100K kitchen and bath showroom. The location was still very rural with only 3,000 people in the town, but population was on the rise in neighboring cities. They had originally opened as wholesale only, but quickly doubled their traffic after opening to retail public. Because of this business model, they were making news. Their story was featured on the 1972 cover of Supply House Times.
“When it comes to innovation and ambition, this Schererville, Ind. Company is a Goliath” – Supply House Times
Their showroom combined several aesthetics in individual vignettes to give the consumer a real feel of what they could offer. Everything from Mediterranean, Dutch, Swiss, contemporary, early American, to Chinese motifs. They carried three lines of cabinets with a moderate priced line kept in stock along with four lines of vanities. Plus, appliance lines, decorative brick, vacuums, ice makers, grills, and floor and wall coverings – everything a homeowner could need! Frances worked as the secretary-treasurer, handled accounts payable, worked in the showroom, and designed kitchen layouts. Their daughter, Anne, oversaw the bath boutique.
An individual kitchen sale would range from $3.5K to $5K all the way up to $20K and a typical bathroom would sell for about $2.5K. In 1973, their showroom sales were up to $350k.
In 1975, Koremen Co. was again the cover story on Supply House Times. They headlined with “A Twist in Multi-line Wholesaling.” By this time Koremen Co had created a one stop shop with everything from lighting to HVAC and even a retail boutique.
The Koremenos’ were true pioneers in the kitchen and bath industry. Today Koremen LTD remains open for business. Their showroom features plumbing fixtures, appliances, countertops, and cabinetry, including customer favorite – Wolf Classic cabinets.
Frances says, “My true love is working with customers to give them a kitchen and or bath that would work the best for them. I have no idea how many I have done from builder’s grade to very custom, I was happy to satisfy the customers.”
“Now at 92, I still have the same enthusiasm. I wake up every day and go to work. I love what I’m doing, and I think the customers can feel that. I’m happy and blessed every day.”
With 70 years of designing kitchens, we estimate Frances has designed more than 1,500 kitchens. When asked, Frances will tell you all the changes she’s witnessed in the industry.
How do the kitchen trends differ throughout the years?
“I like to let my customers decide on what trends they like. I liked them all. Right now, it’s Wolf Classic Hanover door in white or grey. A lot of white and grey. Back when we opened, people liked more ornate details like corbels.”
Do you like the new techniques such as 2020 software or would you prefer hand drawn perspectives?
“I never got into digital designing; it was not for me. I make line drawings and if a customer wants a digital drawing, I have someone do that from my plans.”
In 1972, when you opened your showroom, what was the most rewarding part?
“It was rewarding to see the impressions of the customers. I enjoyed working alongside my daughters.”
Do you recall your favorite kitchen you ever designed?
“I loved all the kitchens. One of the funniest episodes I experienced was working with a couple – while designing their kitchen I asked if they would like a lazy susan. The husband replied, ‘No, I already have one.’ His wife’s name was Susan! Lots of laughs.”
What advice would you give to aspiring designers?
“I highly recommend going into this field. Be practical, original, and make sure to be functional!”