Imagine if Home Depot and Whole Foods decided to open a store together…and got Deepak Chopra to run it.
What you’d have is something not all that dissimilar from TreeHouse, a new home improvement store that opened for business in Dallas last month. While there is an original TreeHouse in Austin, the Dallas store is the first built from scratch and represents the personification of what this proudly and self-described new age retailer is all about.
“TreeHouse is built upon the idea that all homes should be sustainable, beautiful and healthy,” the store describes itself on its website. “We bring progressive products, great design, human-centered services and leading edge technology together under one roof.” Located in a North Dallas strip mall that is undergoing its own coming of new age, the store you’ll find under that one roof has the same attributes as TreeHouse prescribes for its customers’ homes: sustainable, beautiful and healthy. It describes the new Dallas location as the “world’s first energy positive home improvement chain,” and while there was no voltmeter handy to verify the claim, the massive Tesla battery storage unit at the center of the store didn’t seem to be just decorative.
TreeHouse is serious about this energy saving thing. Various parts of the store have motion-activated lighting, solar panels on the rooftop handle the energy needs and even the actual siting of the store takes into account sun movement and direction. Inside the 35,000-square-foot store – actually about 10,000 of those square feet are located outside in a garden section – you’ll find the traditional home improvement and do-it-yourself departments: kitchen cabinets and major appliances, floor coverings, lighting, paint, building materials and air and water treatment.
But instead of the towering racks and stacks that characterize most stores in the genre, TreeHouse has a decidedly open feeling with spacious displays and what would be wide aisles…if there were any aisles to begin with. Departments flow from one to another, more like an indoor amusement park than a retail store. The products themselves are unlikely to be found under your typical orange Depot roof. They are not just green, they are gluten-free green, with back-stories and social benefits you didn’t even know you were in favor of.
CEO and co-founder Jason Ballard sets the tone for the merchandising philosophy on the company’s website, saying he “wanted to build a place that enabled and empowered people to reimagine their homes towards a true north of sustainability, beauty and health.” The Texas native, who studied ecology and biology –not things you’ll find on too many retail resumes – says he saw TreeHouse as an alternative to the DIY status quo. “Home improvement is in need of a rethink,” he writes on the site. “Products and services often fall short of our needs and expectations in quality, health and sustainability. TreeHouse is reinventing home improvement.”
As with any store looking to play the experience card, TreeHouse has space for classes, lectures and how-to sessions. And the staff, at least on one visit, was overwhelmingly friendly, helpful and eager to help a visitor drink up the Kool-Aid.
TreeHouse has a second Dallas area store, in Plano, in the works and one has to assume there will be more. The big question is the one facing any retail startup: Will it be enough to sustain a retail business as well as it does the environment?
Warren Shoulberg is editorial director for several Progressive Business Media publications in the home furnishings industry. He is not currently in the market for a composting station.