Make us your home page

Spring Hill firm puts twist on outsourcing

SPRING HILL — When Delores and Murray Smart signed into a time-share apartment in Aruba several years ago, they became friends with the building manager.

It has turned out to be a rewarding relationship.

The manager moved on to the Aruba Beach Club, and when the club's 200 units were to be redecorated, Delores and her daughter Kim Backman were asked to make a presentation. They won a piece of the project, supplying sofa beds.

"People saw the quality of the furniture and asked where it came from," Delores recalls. The answer, of course, was Smart Interiors, the family-run operation with stores on Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill and in Lecanto.

They touted such island-friendly materials as rattan, wicker and sea grass, along with hardwoods, sun-worthy fabrics and weather-resistant patio furniture. With a history of Florida living, the Smart family also is cognizant of a preference in an island setting for light and pastel colors, designs leafy, flowered and of shells.

All of this was quite eye-opening in Aruba, a small Caribbean resort island that is part of the Leeward Islands in the Netherland Antilles. Furnishings there tended to favor dark teak wood from Indonesia, not to everyone's taste and often of cookie-cutter design.

When the Smarts recently bought into a 95-unit condo project on the beach, Delores applied her taste and credentials from the Allied Society of Interior Designers to furnish it.

"The developer saw it and said, 'You must do my unit,' " Delores said. "People saw it and wanted it."

Delores has now decorated and furnished two condos at Oceania Residences on the beach. Daughter Kim took on turning a pair of two-story houses into homes. Daughter-in-law Lauri Capozza, who manages the Lecanto store, outfitted a bare condo into an Art Deco retreat.

All of these units are second homes for their owners, most of whom are from the United States and some from Venezuela, only 45 miles away.

In some instances, the owners gave the Smart Interior personnel free rein to decorate. Others picked major pieces and had the decorators add their touches.

Some buyers leafed through Smart catalogs, while others visited Smart's stores in Florida. One buyer spent three days touring the Smart stores to make selections.

Smart also offers what Delores describes as "total turnkey," right down to selecting linens and making up the beds. "Everything but the toothpaste," Murray noted.

In one such instance, Delores wouldn't allow the buyers in until she was finished. When the wife entered, she burst into tears, saying it was more beautiful than she ever imagined.

The Smart group doesn't charge a fee for consultation or design. "Service is included in the purchase," Delores said. The cost to buyers is for furnishings, shipping and customs duty.

As for customs, Delores rolled her eyes. "That's a story in itself," she said.

Only a few ships deliver to Aruba, the closest out of Miami. Shipping containers, 40 feet long and 9 feet high, arrive from Miami on a Wednesday. The sellers have only two hours to load the goods. "I want my men to pack it so I know there will be no damage. We jam pack it."

The containers are locked and sealed, and manifests filled out in detail.

The ships reach Aruba the following Monday or Tuesday. Delores or another Smart staffer must be on hand to receive the shipment. Maneuvering through customs takes anywhere from 48 to 72 hours. After duty is paid, the items are delivered to their destination by customs agents, lock and seals only then broken, and agents observe the unloading to ascertain the products match the manifest.

Then the Smart people begin unpacking, placing and arranging. "It's hard work," said Delores. "It's not glamorous. But it's so rewarding."

Because the local company doesn't yet have a business license in Aruba, all sales must be conducted through Florida. It's not difficult to get such a license but "takes forever," the couple said.

Back here in Hernando County, Smart Interiors has contracts to decorate model homes for several builders. Each builder offers a package of furnishings from Smart to meet a buyer's budget.

Smart's showroom is lush in luxury and elegance. A unique Oriental tile, artfully framed, carries a price tag of some $300. So does a tabletop arrangement of breathtaking design in silk florals and greenery. An inviting dark wood king-size bed is on sale as a floor model for a little more than $1,000.

The company has grown from three people at its inception in 1982 to 35 today. "I believe it's customer service" that made the business grow, said Delores.

Beth Gray can be contacted at

Spring Hill firm puts twist on outsourcing 07/15/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 7:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Former Sen. Greg Evers, advocate for law enforcement, dead at 62.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Former State Sen. Greg Evers, the Baker Florida strawberry farmer and veteran politician, was killed in a single car crash hear his home in Okaloosa County. The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the death late Tuesday, but deferred any further information pending an investigation. He was 62.

    Former Florida Senator Greg Evers, R- Milton, was a passionate advocate for law enforcement and corrections officers. He was found dead Tuesday afternoon in a car crash. He was 62. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Foundation Partners buys Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home


    ST. PETERSBURG — Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.

    Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Water Street Tampa unveils video showing downtown's transformation


    TAMPA — Water Street Tampa, the sweeping, 50-plus acre redevelopment project in Tampa's urban core, has unveiled new images and video of what the downtown district will look like upon completion.

    Strategic Property Partners released a conceptual image of what the Tampa skyline will look like once its redevelopment of 50-plus acres of downtown will look like. [Photo courtesy of  of SPP]
  4. Florida ranks high for workplace equality between men and women

    Working Life

    When it comes to the workplace, Florida ranks fifth in terms of gender equality, a WalletHub study released Tuesday found.

    Florida ranks high in terms of equality between men and women in the workplace. Pictured is Sandra Murman, county commissioner in 2015, talking about the differences in pay between men and women. | [Times file photo]
  5. Treasury secretary's wife boasts of travel on government plane, touts high fashion


    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's wife, Louise Linton, boasted of flying on a government plane with her husband to Kentucky on Monday and then named the numerous fashion brands she wore on the trip in an unusual social media post that only became more bizarre minutes later.

    Steven Mnuchin and his then- financee Louise Linton watch as President Donald Trump speaks during Mnuchin's swearing-in ceremony as  treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 13. [Mandel Ngan | AFP via Getty Images]