Name: Camay Arad
Business: Chameleon Home
What she said then:
In March 2010, The Tribune featured Chameleon Home of Arroyo Grande.
Owned by Camay Arad and her husband Winton Tullis, the shop offers upholstery services and sells furniture, fabrics and home décor items.
But it’s best known for Chameleon Fine Furniture, its own line of changeable furnishings that the couple introduced in 1996. Sturdy frames and meticulously fitted slipcovers allow customers to redecorate less expensively than buying new furniture or reupholstering.
“People argue with me in the store saying there’s no way it’s a slipcover, because it fits like a glove,” Arad said. “The core message of our line is flexibility of design.”
What she says now:
After several years of financial struggles, Chameleon has stabilized and is expanding.
By April 15, Arad expects to open a second store in Pasadena. With funding from her mother, who lives in that city, Chameleon is investing about $50,000 to start the new shop.
“I’m splitting the inventory that I have here,” said Arad, who plans to keep its own manufacturing local. “It’ll be a great additional revenue source.”
She’s also negotiating a deal with P/K Lifestyles, which distributes fabric brands including Waverly and Tommy Bahama. If successful, Chameleon could supply furniture for the company’s showrooms in New York and North Carolina — plus new slipcovers every six months.
Arad met P/K Lifestyles’ president, Dan Bonini, at the International Textile Market Association’s trade show in High Point, N.C., in December — the first time Chameleon attended the show.
“We literally scraped pennies together to go,” Arad said. “We decided we can’t afford not to.”
She and her husband used to participate in such trade shows closer to home, but none remain since most West Coast manufacturers have gone out of business.
She hopes a deal with P/K Lifestyles could lead to other opportunities, such as licensing of a video Arad hopes to make based on her monthly classes. For $35, the two-hour show outlines Chameleon’s philosophy for flexible home decorating. The next will be April 16.
“This will give me my foot in the door,” she said. “I want to launch my own line of fabrics, textiles and home décor products.”
With this goal, the business trademarked the name Chameleon Style late last year.
Such ideas were put on hold when Chameleon suffered sizeable financial errors in 2006. Arad fired her bookkeeper and sought guidance from local small business management experts.
Then in 2008 and 2009, overall sales plummeted between 20 percent and 30 percent each year — just after Chameleon hired two new employees. Its 2010 sales are up 15 percent compared to the previous year.
She credits the company’s survival to its re-upholstering services and to generous referrals from other businesses. These include A&R Furniture Gallery in Paso Robles, Donna’s Interiors in Arroyo Grande and Ron’s in Grover Beach.
Thanks to lenient repayment plans — including months of back payroll taxes to the Internal Revenue Service — Chameleon avoided laying off any of its 10 employees during its struggles.
“I accumulated a sizable debt to the IRS, but all the communication (with its agents) paid off,” Arad said. “Everyone was wonderful working with us.”
— Raven J. Railey