Ann Gregory and Laurie Scarborough, the sister team behind Door Store and Windows, actually started their careers crunching numbers as accountants, never thinking that they would be selling doors. It was their father, who happens to turn 85 this week, whose personal investment in a door manufacturing company set the wheels in motion for Door Store’s creation and for his daughters’ next careers. Ann started at The Door Store first, 20 years ago, and convinced Laurie to join her more than eleven years ago. What was meant to be a six-month job has turned into a wonderful partnership. These sisters are best friends and business partners, whose main goal every day is to make “Louisville a better town to live in, one house at a time!” You will never think about your doors or windows the same after meeting these two dynamos. Welcome Ann Gregory and Laurie Scarborough as today’s FACES of Louisville.
Ann, you started this company with your father as an investor. How did you come up with the concept?
The business was started 20 years ago. I would love to take credit for the idea, but it was actually our father. Dad had invested in a door manufacturing company and quickly realized that most of their dealers were window replacement companies that were not focused on doors. His idea was to open a retail establishment that sold and installed only entry doors. His partner at the time was charged with finding an owner/manager who would be responsible for the day-to-day activities of the business as they were only going to be investors. Dad’s only restriction was to NOT hire one of his children. He interviewed 30+ candidates and told Dad that he wanted to hire me.
Ann, back when you started, Laurie was selling doors to you. Now she works with you. How did you get her to come work with you?
Basically, I begged her. We had grown to the point that I was feeling overwhelmed. Laurie brought a set of skills and talents that I did not have. She initially said that she would help me out for six months. She wouldn’t allow me to buy her a desk and worked on two folding tables for five or six years. Eventually, she cracked and decided that she would be my equal partner in the business, and we bought a real desk for her. We still laugh about that!
What is it like working with your sister?
Ann: Laurie and I are very close in age (18 months apart), and we both have very strong personalities. But, family comes first. So prior to working together, we sat down and agreed upon some ground rules, which were basically that family trumps business. If business ever comes between us, we walk away. It’s been a wonderful journey, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner.
Laurie: It’s actually great working together. Imagine working with someone you really trust, who believes in your business just as wholeheartedly as yourself and looks out for your best interest as well as her own.
Initially we struggled with the idea of working together. We talked about it for about three months before taking the plunge. (True story. I agreed to stay for only six months.) We knew our work “gifts” were uniquely different and complementary. But we also knew we were both extremely independent, inpatient, maybe even bossy and definitely competitive; and working together would be a risky proposition. We were dear friends and just about as close as sisters could be. We did not want to lose our friendship. So we made heartfelt promises to each other to keep our sister relationship first and foremost. So yes, we have had disagreements and hurt feelings, but we talk it out in a kind but direct way. Apologize, if necessary. We’ve been working shoulder to shoulder now for 11 years and we are still friends.
After starting out as just The Door Store, now you sell windows too. How do these products go hand in hand?
Laurie: Doors and windows are a part of a larger market segment called the fenestration industry, which is built around the design, construction or presence of openings in buildings. So it’s a very natural progression from doors to windows. Most window and door companies in the replacement business start with windows, then add entry doors. We started in the entry door business, then added windows.
Entry doors are bit more personal to homeowners and require more design knowledge. After all, many people use their entry door daily. Their doors need to add to the exterior architecture of their home as well as enhance the beauty of their interior entry halls. As a result, many homeowners tend to have more concerns about their entry door choices. We have been selling and installing entry doors for 20 years, and we are always happy to help customers select their entry doors.
What’s next on the horizon for the business?
Ann: Continue making homes in Louisville beautiful.
Laurie: Our business passion is bringing beauty and comfort to homes in our community. So we are always looking for the brightest and best people to add to our team and help with this mission. Plus we are on the hunt for new products to add to our lineup.
What are the challenges of working with your family?
Ann: It’s not so much a challenge but an awareness that your partner is more important than just a co-worker. I think both of us try to be considerate of each other, and we are both very aware of each other’s hot buttons. Sometimes we slip, but at the end of the day, we respect and love each other. The biggest advantage is the trust that we have in each other. There is never any doubt that Laurie has my back and I have hers.
Laurie: The biggest challenge? Of course the obvious, too much of a good thing! Trying not to talk business at family and celebratory gatherings. What are the advantages? Trust. You know your back is covered, and you know you are safe with them.
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
Ann: I start my day very early, typically rising around 5 a.m. I usually walk three to four miles, six days a week. I usually get to work between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Due to the retail nature of my business, I spend a good deal of time in the showroom. I do run sales calls, but we have such a wonderful sales team, so that doesn’t happen as much as it used to. One thing that I still try to do is to take a minute when a customer is in the showroom to stop by and introduce myself. I love the design element of my job, and helping customers select the perfect windows and doors for the their home is the best part of what I do.
Laurie: My typical week includes a bit of everything. I have a lot of leadership responsibilities — keeping the team focused on strategic, tactical and operational goals. I spend time reading and monitoring the business environment. I will spend 25%-plus of my time on marketing and advertising. I also volunteer weekly as a member of two choirs and a helper with a 3- and 4-year-old choir, all at our church.
What are three words that describe you?
Ann: Loyal, passionate, decisive
Laurie: Overcommitted (I want to do it all), passionate, driven
What advice do you treasure?
Ann: I have two different answers to that. My mother always told me in order to be happy, you have to decide to be happy. It comes from within. And when we opened the business, someone that I thought very highly of told me to always remember that no one will love this business as much as you love the business.
Laurie: Some early advice from our father. I remember trying to understand what my bosses wanted from me, wondering how I could be more successful and meet their expectations. Generally my supervisors were men — members of the “mature/silent” (the Korean and Vietnam War) generations. Dad told me that a commander’s wish was an order. I learned to listen for the expectation framed in wishes as well as for direct orders. His advice has been invaluable.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my __________.
Ann: You will never see me without my baby shoe necklace by Aaron Basha. It was my mother’s, and I wear it every day.
Laurie: My Fitbit. But truly you will often see me with my sister — work, lunch and weekend dinners out. Oh, and let’s not forget shopping when time allows.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
Laurie: The New York Times, online news organizations and industry publications are getting most of my attention. I also enjoy daily meditation and read from a spiritual anthology. I have two books queued up: one on digital content marketing and a spiritual book written by Henri Nouwen.
What are some of your favorite things right now, aside from faith, family and friends?
Ann: By far, my favorite thing is my 3-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter Katie. It’s so much fun watching her personality develop and watching my son and daughter-in-law work through the challenges of parenting. Also, this time of year we are turning a corner into my favorite season … Spring! I love watching the days get longer and having those few warm days here and there to let us know that warmer weather is just around the corner.
Laurie: My new dog Mercedes (recently adopted 4-year-old Havanese), renovating our ’60s house, and Sunday night TV like “Masterpiece Theater” or “The Walking Dead.”
Door Store and Windows is located at 4625 Shelbyville Road, Louisville KY 40207. Learn more at (502) 896-1717.
And thank you to Adele Reding Photography for the wonderful photos of Ann and Laurie!
Read about more inspiring women in Louisville in our FACES of Louisville weekly features here.