By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS – Interior decorator Sandee Payne came to Central Texas with her soldier husband and a floating career three years ago and correctly identified a market niche. It seems things have been falling into place ever since.
A certified interior decorator, she had been working for 12 years in communities where her husband, Maj. Michael Payne of the 36th Engineer Brigade, was stationed.
When they came to the rapidly growing Fort Hood area three years ago, she noticed a need for consultants to "pick up where homebuilders leave off and to address the needs of military families who have acquired a lot of different kinds of furniture, curtains and so forth in many places."
She began offering consultation and materials to a transient military population on an hourly fee basis, and the business grew to cover two rooms of her house with a lot of people in and out. She was wishing aloud to Danya Reider, whose business with her husband at John Reider Properties has been mushrooming, about wanting to move into a commercial office.
Reider had been running a shop called The Healing Tree at 220 Commercial Drive in Harker Heights for a couple of years. She had some time left on the lease and suggested that Payne could move in; she set up shop in March.
"It was perfect," Payne said. "I'm not big enough for the expense of space in Market Heights or along Farm-to-Market Road 2410, but this shop is still convenient. It's small, but we don't keep much material on hand, and a great deal of my work is on-site, in people's homes."
The shop, with large windows on two sides, holds sample books and some retail items that give it a traditional, homey feeling.
Some retail items available for sale off the floor come from manufacturers, others from estate sales.
There are yards and yards of catalogs and material, wood and tile samples from suppliers at the Dallas Market Center and elsewhere. A shop in Dallas creates fabric products to order.
"Some of my customers don't have much money, and military people are constantly having to fit what they've picked up along the way into new surroundings. So I started a practice where I could provide as little or as much service as they needed or wanted. Some people talk to me just one time; I see others once a month. It's tailored to their needs and desires.
"When I was working out of my house, I was loading and unloading the car all day. It was awkward, because this is a tactile industry that involves all a customer's senses. Here they have a place where they can touch a lot, and imagine."
She said she helps solve another problem that has plagued a lot of commerce as the area grows from a series of small towns into a metropolitan area: a lack of choices.
"People were always having to drive to Austin for window treatments and particular kinds of decorations they wanted if they didn't want their house to look just like their neighbor's," she said. "We can supply a wide variety, and a lot of the furniture, particularly from local sales, is one of a kind in the area."
She has also begun to offer craft classes so that people who will move again are better equipped to do some of the decoration in new homes.
The region has other consultants who work from home and on the staffs of furniture stores and similar businesses, as well as standard interior decorators and designers, but as far as she knows, Buy the Hour Interiors is the only one with a commercial location that offers such a wide variety of services in small bits.
The enterprise has grown from Payne and one employee in her home to four employees, "all aspiring decorators," and an in-house bookkeeper, Payne said.
The Paynes are both originally from New Jersey. With 15 years as a military family, the option of retirement is coming into view, and they are seriously considering settling here.
"We're not sure yet, but I'm seeing this as a long-term business, and it's looking more attractive all the time," she said.
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.