Sitting Pretty

Outdoor furniture business enjoys exceptional service from NB|AZ®

Chalk it up to that entrepreneurial spirit, but when homebuilders Jim and Valerie Sheehan encountered rough waters during the economic storm of 2008, they took an opportunity to start a new business—one that’s turned into an impressively successful venture.

“When we moved here from New Jersey in 1997, our custom home building business took off and was doing really well,” Valerie says. “Then the crash hit in 2008 and things got tough. We swore, though, that we’d bounce back.”

Bounce back they most certainly did. As home building slowed, they decided to open a consignment furniture store in Cave Creek. “We owned a commercial building we couldn’t sell or rent, so we decided to turn it into a consignment shop,” Valerie says. “At the time, a lot of people were losing their homes and needed to get their furniture out. It broke my heart.”

While the indoor furniture wasn’t really moving, the patio furniture was, which led the Sheehans to focus solely on outdoor furnishings. “It was a total learning experience for us and a lot of it was hit or miss,” Valerie says. “We tried to get things at a certain price point for customers, but that just doesn’t work when you lowball it. We then decided to offer primarily upscale, high-quality products—especially since we were already in the business of building high-end custom homes.”

The Sheehans then decided to bring a partner in. Nick Stelfox had been their window salesman in the home building business, and the couple knew his skills and experience would be a good fit.

“I was available when they reached out and the stars just aligned,” he says. “When they invited me to partner, I jumped at the chance. I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so I felt like this was a great opportunity for me to take a shot. I’m happy I did.”

In 2010, the owners decided to relocate to neighboring Carefree and much to their delight, sales jumped dramatically. Carefree Outdoor Living was born. Today, Valerie and Nick run the business (Jim continues to oversee the custom home building business), where they each wear many hats.

“When it comes to the face of the business, you’re looking at them,” Valerie says. “Both of us do sales, schedule deliveries, order inventory, maintain the showroom—you name it, we do it.”

Nick adds, “What makes us different from the bigger outdoor furniture stores is that from the moment you walk into the store, you’re dealing with one of the owners from start to finish. That’s something you can’t get in this space.”

Carefree Outdoor Living carries high-end outdoor furnishings and accessories, such as tables and chairs, lounges, umbrellas, fire pits and fire tables, as well as barbecue grills and smokers. Product lines include Brown Jordan, O.W. Lee, Tropitone, Tommy Bahama, Telescope, and Sunset West.

“We really try to focus as much as possible on products made and manufactured in the U.S.,” Nick says. “That’s very important to us.”

What’s also important is developing and fostering good business relationships in Carefree. Nick is on the executive board of the Carefree Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce, where he met fellow chair Jennifer McGirr of National Bank of Arizona®, who introduced him to the bank.

“Since NB|AZ was heavily involved in the chamber, I knew they cared about what was going on in Carefree. It only made sense to bank with an organization that was so deeply involved in the community,” says Nick, who appreciates the exceptional customer service they receive whenever they visit the bank.

“They’re always so helpful with anything we need. Plus, it’s very convenient to walk to the branch, where we’re immediately greeted by name by the bankers and tellers. You don’t find that kind of service much these days. It really makes you feel as if they care about you and your business.”