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Community Home Supply Celebrates 75 Years In Business

By Patty Wetli | April 5, 2013 12:35pm

NORTH CENTER — Indoor plumbing had only recently become the standard for U.S. households when Community Home Supply opened its doors in North Center in 1938.

Times have changed.

"It's almost become like fashion," said Marla Richardson, who now runs the kitchen and bath shop founded by her parents, the late Sidney and Belle Greenspan.

"Rather than keeping the same thing for 30 years, you want to change it and update it."

Hosting an open house Thursday night in honor of Community's diamond jubilee, Richardson, who professed a "passion for plumbing," was surrounded by the gleaming stainless steel faucets and sinks that have kept the family business flowing for eight decades.

The showrooms are filled with more European products these days, just one of the developments Richardson has witnessed over the years.

Where she used to be the only game in town, "the Internet has changed my business," she said.

To compete in an era in which customers have thousands of kitchen and bath options available at the click of a mouse, Richardson relies more heavily on local shoppers coming in off the street.

"I love the traffic jams," she said of backups at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Irving Park Road, which stalls cars in sight line of her storefront.

She also touts customer service and her sales staff as competitive advantages over big box stores.

"We know the trends and we're here for you," she said.

Richardson can, for example, tell you that residents in the surrounding neighborhood have a preference for what she calls "contemporary minimalist with a flair." Exotic woods like bamboo and wenge are also hot at the moment.

The store was actually ahead of the current "bathrooms are the new kitchen" trend, she said.

"We're a little unusual in the industry in that we've always been more bath than kitchen."

Her theory on why we're spending so much more time in the tub: "I think there's a lot of tension out there. With the bathroom, you can lock the door, you can hide. We're all looking for ways to relax."

With her son having joined the company, Richardson is confident Community Home Supply will be around to see customers through whatever the next innovation may be.

Asked what her parents would think of the way Community has evolved, Richardson replied, "They'd say, 'Good for you.'"