Making the Move Downtown
By David Zaslawsky
Photography by Robert Fouts
A lot has changed for the owner of Charlie’s Trophies in the past 15 months and it could not be better.
A move from the 20-year Pelzer Avenue location off Coliseum Boulevard to Dexter Avenue in downtown Montgomery has not only resulted in a 20 percent increase in sales, but a new home address as well for Beverly Gulino, owner/business manager of Charlie’s Trophies and her husband David Gulino, the company’s chief financial officer. They live in a two-story loft apartment above Charlie’s Trophies, which eliminated a commute to work and eliminated the need for three vehicles. The family has one car now and they walk nearly everywhere.
The change to the business, which was owned and named after her father Charlie Brasington, a Montgomery police officer, has been dramatic. First, the new building, which along with the loft apartment cost $750,000 to renovate, is 1½ times the size of the previous location. They have about 4,500 square feet, which enabled the couple to increase their showroom space, work space and storage space. Some rivals have showrooms as small as their breakroom, which has a table and four chairs. That makes a difference to customers, who can see products at Charlie’s Trophies instead of browsing through catalogs in cramped quarters.
The hours have been expanded by nearly 40 percent from 28 hours a week to now 40 hours a week. The store is open 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. five days a week and staying open until 5:30 p.m. means that people who get off work at 5 o’clock have time to visit the store, which is located a few feet from the Court Square Fountain.
Because Beverly Gulino lives upstairs from the store, she can not only work later and be seconds from her home, but she can also meet customers for off-hour appointments.
What really changed has been the foot traffic. There wasn’t any at Pelzer Avenue. “Our customers came there because they had a need to come there,” David Gulino said.
“Tourists now see us because they are walking downtown. They go to the fountain. They go to the civil rights trail – different things – and they see us and they come in.” The new location “has been great,” he said.
That new location has also been a hit with Maxwell Air Force Base. “We’re close to the base so we get business from the base,” said Beverly Gulino, who has owned the store since September 2012. There was not much base business before. While they had some business from the Gunter Annex, that facility does not order the quantity of awards that Maxwell does.
Military personnel have a particular fondness for an eagle figurine made out of Alabama red clay and Beverly Gulino said that they have the room to carry more gift items. “We are an award and recognition (business), but people come in for things other than the traditional plaques and trophies,” David Gulino said. He said the “more gift-oriented items” can be personalized by engraving.
The two are working with nearby hotels to handle awards and recognition for meetings, seminars, etc. A visitor from Chicago ordered products and picked them up for an event at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center, said David Gulino. “They don’t have to go somewhere else,” he said. “We have to leverage that.”
Although the company has capitalized on its new location, it’s customer service that sets them apart, the Gulinos said. “We do quick turnarounds,” Beverly Gulino said and David Gulino said “everything is done in-house.” There is no outsourcing – almost none as 99 percent of the awards are built and engraved in-house, Beverly Gulino said. “A lot of what we do is specialty engraving and you can do a lot with these laser engravers,” David Gulino said.
“And I work long hours,” Beverly Gulino said. “That’s why I live where I work.”