Merv Epstein admits that the birth of his first grandchild motivated him to walk away from a five-year real estate career in New York and return to his native South Carolina. Ten years later, his seven grandchildren aren’t all that Epstein has to be proud of.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got here,” states Epstein, the franchise owner of two Budget Blinds territories in South Carolina. “All I knew was, I wanted to be closer to family.”
Working with a business broker, Epstein was introduced to Budget Blinds. “I was looking for a business that didn’t have many employees or require a lot of inventory,” says Epstein, who spent a number of years working in his family’s Anderson-based, labor-intensive apparel company. “Budget Blinds was a good business and it fit the model I was looking for.”
In August 2004, Epstein hit the ground running. From day one, his goal was simple: to be honest and to please his customers. “That is really the philosophy I live by,” continues Epstein. “I have never charged a customer for a repair. I don’t try to nickel and dime them to put a few extra bucks in my pocket. So I never have to look over my shoulder in the grocery store. That means a lot to me. Rather than complain, I think our customers say, ‘Go to Budget Blinds because they’ll take care of you.’ That’s a big part of why we’ve been so successful.”
His success is undeniable. Earlier this year, one of Epstein’s two local territories was recognized as the top franchise in North America out of all Budget Blinds’ 1,200 franchises, with $3.2 million in annual sales. “That was the most sold by any one franchise in the history of Budget Blinds’ 22 years in business,” says Epstein, who has taken that #1 title for five consecutive years. “As a franchise—someone who owns more than one territory—I was the first in the company’s history to have more than $4 million in sales in a single year, and it’s also the first time the same person has won both awards for being the #1 franchise and the #1 franchisee in the same year.”
Budget Blinds is known nationally for its huge network of window-covering vendors. Name brands like Hunter Douglas, Norman Window Fashions, Springs Window Fashions, Lafayette Interior Fashions and many more are available to Budget Blinds customers across the country. “Our corporate office searches throughout the world for the best vendors and the best prices,” explains Epstein. “As the largest independent window treatment company in the world, Budget Blinds has tremendous buying power. The prices our corporate office negotiates trickle down to us on the local level. That’s how we can offer our customers such a great selection and a great value.”
Budget Blinds also provides customers a great alternative to ordering window coverings from a big box store or online. “We offer free consultations right in a customer’s home or business,” continues Epstein. “Customers can look through samples and see how a window covering will look in a room. We do all the measuring and ordering. All of our window coverings—roller, Roman or woven wood shades, plantation shutters, draperies, even the latest in motorized window treatments—are custom- made and professionally installed.”
“Three years ago, we opened a showroom in Mount Pleasant,” adds Epstein. “After several years in this business, I discovered most people want to touch and feel the products. One of the other advantages of visiting our showroom is that we have two tremendous ASID-certified interior designers to help our customers with their selections. The Mount Pleasant showroom is so popular with our customers that we are opening showrooms in West Ashley and Summerville this year.”
Epstein says his franchises’ growth over the last decade wouldn’t have been possible without the help of his dedicated staff. “I’m particularly proud of my son, Adam Epstein, who owns Budget Blinds of Summerville, and my son-in-law, Lang Dinkins, who will be opening a Budget Blinds franchise in the Upstate,” says Epstein. “It is a true family business. From the beginning, returning to South Carolina and buying Budget Blinds franchises has been about being with family.”
Patra Taylor writes about homes, culture and lifestyle from Charleston.