When Diana Atchley and her husband, Terry, bought White's Interior & Design Inc. from Terry's sister, Susan Lloyd, she was entering a fairly unknown world.
"I did not have a strong background in decorating," Atchley said. "We worked out everything on our own. I enjoy challenges."
The Atchleys bought the business in 1995 because Lloyd had two small children at home and she wanted to spend more time with them. Terry Atchley had worked with his sister before, so he brought that experience into the operation. In fact, he has been doing flooring since he was 14, his wife said.
"My background is in business, but before taking over the store I was working in social services," Atchley said.
With her business background and her husband's good eye, they looked into what Payson and the surrounding communities needed. As for the decorating end of the business, Atchley said she has learned it hands-on over the years.
"I have another sister-in-law, Sherry Dugan, who can do anything," Atchley said. "She is our ‘Martha Stewart.' And Terry's mother, Alpha, has always had a gift for painting and rearranging furniture. Terry got his good eye for design from her.When the Atchleys bought White's Interior & Design, the store was carrying flooring, window treatment and a little wallpaper.
"We introduced the interior design element," Atchley said. "We have always had a degreed designer on staff."
Atchley has also taken design classes to get the basics, including a two-year course. She stays up on seminars following the trends in the business.
"Neutrals are still popular," she said about current trends. "Long-yarn carpets are popular. It's not the shag we grew up with though."
The store also now has a paint element and the Atchleys help clients with color selections, accent walls and faux painting.
While the deluge of home improvement television shows has not made a big difference in her business, there has been some impact.
"Home improvement television has forced me to watch it more," Atchley said. "People will come in and refer to what they have seen, so I have to know what they're talking about.
"I think it's great that they have shown people they can take a chance. Most are a little afraid of trying something and those shows give them a boost of faith that they can do it."
Since Atchley and her husband operate the business on their own most of the time, she said one of the big challenges is the multi-tasking it takes to work with clients, take care of the phone and everything else.
"If you can't (multi-task), you would go crazy," she said.
Her mother, Peggy Singer, helps out sometimes in the shop, and her stepfather, Jack Singer, helps with window installations.
"Customer satisfaction is the most rewarding part of the business," Atchley said. "Repeat clientele is the most important thing. Someone calling for the first time, just because they saw our listing in the phone book or an ad, doesn't know my reputation. But when we have repeat customers, or a customer has referred someone to us we know they know the work we do."
The future will bring some changes for Atchley and White's Interior & Design Inc.
"With Home Depot coming, we are going to be downsizing," Atchley said. "We know our prices are better and we're going to try to make our niche and try to carry a lot of different things."
Atchley has an emotional investment in her business.
"This business is my life. A lot goes home with me," she said.
That investment has paid off, she added.
"I want to thank the people of Payson that have voted us ‘Best of' for so many years.
"It's more than a certificate. It shows people have taken the time to say what they feel," she said.
To find out more about White's Interior & Design Inc., call (928) 474-5870, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The shop is located at 1014 N. Beeline Highway.
Name: Diana Atchley
Occupation: Designer and President
Employer: White's Interior & Design Inc.
Family: Husband, Terry, and our two dogs, Bart and Midget.
Personal motto: That my life and business practices are reflective of my Christian walk.
Inspiration: The Bible is an instruction manual of life that hasn't changed in 2,000 years.
Greatest feat: This business.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Camping with Terry and the outdoors.
Three words that describe me best are ... analytical, assertive, compassionate.
I don't want to brag but ... I'm proud of our business!
The person in history I'd most like to meet is: Jesus Christ.
Luxury defined: Vacations.
Dream vacation spot: Alaska
Why Payson? We moved up here with Terry's parents to help them as they get older and they have been a bigger help to us.