Faerber endures despite changes in its industry

 Pam Faerber is sitting in the cozy
sun porch at her home, talking about the 25 years she and her husband, George, have spent running their business. Appropriately,
the room is enclosed almost entirely in glass-windows from floor to ceiling to roof.

You’d expect nothing less from the owners of Faerber’s Bee Window, the company they founded in 1983. Their main product —
windows — has
changed dramatically, as has almost every aspect of business, from manufacturing to marketing. Yet they’re still here.

"Look at a [1983] phone book and try to find other companies that are still in business," she said. "They’re
not there."

So how’d they do it? In listening to Pam Faerber tell the story, it was a combination of dedication, perseverance, flexibility
and, occasionally, a bit of luck.

The idea for Bee Window began shortly after George Faerber left his job as an assistant coach for the Purdue University basketball
team. He’d played, then coached and recruited. In 1980, the Faerbers decided to move to St. Louis to work with Pam’s father,
Don Biggs, who had a window company called the Don Biggs Co. (People called him "Mr. B," which ultimately inspired
the name
Bee Window.) Family and business didn’t mix particularly well, so after three years, they decided to move back to Indiana
to start their own firm.

George had been a business major at Purdue, so he wrote up a business plan and took it to various Indianapolis banks, seeking
a loan. They turned him down. But Purdue National Bank trusted the former All-American. Bee Window opened as a wholesale business
that manufactured vinyl windows and bought steel entry doors, which they customized. The work was done in their manufacturing
facility on West 10th Street in Indianapolis.

Initially, they sold their products to small home-improvement companies. But they were frustrated because sometimes customers
would call and say the windows were bad. They’d go to houses and find windows that were installed upside down or inside out.
So in 1985, they moved Bee to its current 52nd Street location, revamped the company and began selling directly to the public.

Vinyl windows were a cottage industry at that time, Pam said, and Bee Window was a large manufacturer, relatively speaking.
Then other window manufacturers began building "super plants," and the Faerbers had to decide whether to stay in
manufacturing
or become retailers, selling other companies’ windows.

"We felt our strength was on the retail end," Pam said. So in 1992, they opted for partnerships with window-makers
who’d manufacture
windows to their specifications.

Today, about 75 percent of the windows they sell are from Minnesota-based Renewal By Andersen, a high-end composite of fine
wood particles and virgin vinyl.

And the Faerbers have expanded the business over the years to sell siding, basement remodeling, gutter systems, roofing and
Four Seasons sunrooms. Just recently, they took over Beveled Glass Design, a Shadeland Avenue company that sells entry doors.

None of this came without the occasional misstep. There were times when the business grew faster than its line of credit and
had to pull back. They should have gotten out of manufacturing earlier, Pam said. Before the state’s do-not-call list went
into effect in 2002, Bee Window generated 70 percent of its business from telemarketing. So the company had to find a way
to replace that business.

They weathered the storms by being adaptable. "If you don’t change," Pam said, "you’re dying."

So when they lost the ability to telemarket, they went to the Internet. Now, thanks to search-engine optimization and strategically
placed online ads, nearly 50 percent of Bee’s business comes from Internet contacts.

"Marketing has been a huge issue," Pam said. "We used to have three TV stations and two adult radio stations.
You’d buy two
of the three TV stations, some radio and an ad in the Sunday paper and you reached your audience." Now, though, you have
so
many people you can’t reach. "Marketing expenses and budgeting has been a real challenge."

Bee is still advertising on TV and radio to maintain name awareness in the community. And it still has the benefit of a jingle
— "Look
for the bumblebee/That’s Faerber’s Bee Window/Bee Window!" — that most of us can sing in our sleep. The jingle
was
the inspiration
of a woman named Jackie Wood, whom the Faerbers met through some friends. Wood wrote the jingle for a fraction of what professional
songwriters were charging.

That was good luck, Pam said. As for the rest of Bee Window’s success, she said, that comes from delivering high-quality products,
installation and service.

Fourteen years ago, Dana Schindler started her career with Bee Window. Today she is marketing manager for Associated Materials,
which provides Bee Window with siding and window products. Schindler remembers a letter the Faerbers sent to customers that
said: "If you ever have any issues and you don’t get resolution, here’s our personal number. You call us directly and
we’ll
take care of it."

"That’s
pretty unique for a business of that size," Schindler said. "At the time, that was their home phone number."

Today, customers get their cell numbers. And when customers call, they respond.

Jo-Ann Haddix and her husband, Bert, hired Bee Window to do a $60,000 job that included siding, windows, gutters and more
on their Greenfield home.

"Anytime I had a concern, they would send their people right out here to talk to me about it," Jo-Ann said. "If
I didn’t like
something, they would change it. This house is just absolutely fabulous. And believe me, I’m no pushover. If I don’t like
something, I will say. So when I said I like it, I really like it. That was a big, scary project and they came through 100
percent."

Pam Faerber said businesses like Bee Window have to come through. Running a small business is a challenge, but their approach
is simple: "Always keep your head up. It’s a challenge every day. Enjoy it. Enjoy your employees, enjoy your customers."

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