89.3 F
San Fernando
Thursday, Sep 21, 2023


WADE DANIELS Staff Reporter Amid an array of brass doorknobs and cabinet handles displayed behind the counter at the Deco-Brass store in Tarzana are five mirrors from France. Costing as much as $600 apiece, they are the same mirrors that a Deco Brass Inc. customer went crazy over at the Ritz Hotel in Paris a few years back and had to have. So store owner Ernest Amster made several overseas calls, found the maker called French Reflection and had them imported from France. “That’s how I find a lot of what I sell,” Amster said. “People tell me about something they saw, or come in with a type of drawer handle that I haven’t seen, and we find it where it’s from and add to our line.” The story helps explain how Amster, his wife Talma and their seven employees at Deco Brass have built what customers call a one-of-a-kind store in the region. As property values rebound in the San Fernando Valley, stores like Deco Brass are finding that people are putting more money in to sprucing up their homes. “We are certainly busier than a couple years ago,” said Amster. “People are buying new houses or improving their homes. Sometimes they buy cheaper items, but most people are buying the high-quality stuff.” Wedged between a fast food joint and an auto body shop on Ventura Boulevard, the store is easy to miss, though its customers say it has the broadest selection of handles, knobs, faucets, sinks, toilets and other decorative home implements around. “I’ve been to Home Depot and other places, but nowhere is there such a selection of these things,” said Kathryn Paddock, a homemaker from Hidden Hills, who came to buy some towel hooks for her family’s home. “I’ve bought sinks here, and lots of brands of kitchen things that I didn’t see anywhere else.” Amster had been working as a civil engineer for a Valley home-building company, and his boss kept an account at Deco Brass, meaning Amster often stopped by to pick out goods for the houses. He struck up a friendship with the owners, and they offered to sell him the business on special terms he could meet, coming in with little down. “I was scared to death, because I had no business experience and knew little about this field,” Amster said. “But they convinced me and my wife convinced me to buy the business.” After taking over, Amster said he listened to the store’s employees, and decided that to be competitive, Deco Brass needed to expand its selection. “We had to have a larger stock, new suppliers, find the interesting imported goods,” said Amster, who emigrated from his native Czechoslovakia in 1948. “Now we’ve got products from companies in Italy, in Hungary, France, many places.” He estimates that the store has more than 100 brands of decorative goods on its walls and in the catalogs it has amassed. More than that, Amster wanted his store to have most goods available for customers instantly, and has devoted about four-fifths of the store’s 10,000-square-foot building to warehouse space. While Amster has noticed an increase in customers seeking fixtures for their homes, he has also noticed an increase in competition. Not from increasingly popular home stores like Home Depot which he says have a poor selection of decorative goods but from “cut-throats,” who visit construction sites and sell decorative goods to builders at very low rates. “They have no overhead, and their price makes the buyer care a little less about selection,” Amster said. “It’s not a super profitable business, but it’s a special business that I make a decent living at.”

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