Austin’s TreeHouse plans to expand, add more stores

TreeHouse, Austin’s eco-friendly home improvement store, is gearing up to go national.

After 10 straight quarters of growth, including a 60 percent year-over-year increase in revenues during 2014, executives said this week they’re ready to expand four-year-old TreeHouse into other markets. Possibilities include elsewhere in Texas, as well as cities in California, Colorado and the Pacific Northwest.

The first – and so far only – TreeHouse store opened in 2011 in the Westgate Shopping Center at 4477 S. Lamar Blvd. in Southwest Austin.

“It’s been our goal to grow and expand from the very first day we opened our doors,” co-founder and president Jason Ballard said. “We really want to move the needle and one small store in one small part of one city isn’t going to do that.”

Over the past four years, Ballard said the TreeHouse team has worked to refine the store’s look and inventory, based on feedback from customers. They still carry many of the tools you’d find at a Home Depot or Lowe’s store, but the assortment has been downsized to make way for more top sellers – items in the home performance, home design and outdoor departments.

TreeHouse, for instance, is one of the nation’s top sellers of products from Nest, a company known for its smart thermostats, Ballard said. Solar power systems, rainwater harvesting gear and non-toxic paints are also popular items.

“We have a joke, ‘If you don’t like TreeHouse, come back in a month,’ ” he said. “In retail, you have to prototype in real time. We wanted to be prepared for everything when we first opened.”

A TreeHouse shopper for the past two and a half years, Adam Reiser has witnessed many of those changes and is glad to see the retailer planning an expansion.

“I view them as the Whole Foods Market of home improvement stores,” Reiser said. “What you put into your house and into your environment is so important to your health. It’s great to see people who take that so seriously.”

Reiser said he patronized TreeHouse extensively while building a new home and still finds himself at the store on a regular basis.

“They have great products and people,” he said. “We use TreeHouse as much as we can. There’s nothing like it in Austin.”

Future TreeHouse stores will be similar in size to the TreeHouse in the Westgate Shopping Center, Ballard said, spanning 25,000 to 30,000 square feet. The areas being targeted were selected for two reasons, he said. They’re either geographically adjacent to Austin or in areas that are known for being eco-friendly.

“We’re really proud of everything we’ve done so far and what’s ahead,” Ballard said.

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