Thirty miles southwest of Austin along the Blanco River is Wimberley, Texas. Population 3,797. Among those who call Wimberley home is one Gary Weeks. And if you make your way to West Spoke Hill Drive, you’ll come to a wooden sign that simply reads, “Gary Weeks & Company — Furniture Makers.”
Gary Weeks & Company makes tables, stools and dining furniture. It also makes rocking chairs — the Weeks Rocker, which is what Weeks calls his “signature piece.” Perhaps because it is his signature piece a unique guarantee accompanies the chair. It reads: “The Weeks Rocker is guaranteed to be the most comfortable, the most beautiful and the best constructed rocking chair you have ever experienced or we will refund your money, including all shipping charges.”
If you’re wondering how often Weeks has had to back up his guarantee: He’s sold more than 1,900 rockers. Five have been returned. The rockers are available in five woods, cherry, walnut, maple, mahogany and mesquite, with prices ranging from $1,600 to $3,700.
His site, Garyweeks.com, has been online since 1997.
Biggest Obstacle: “Because we have a limited number of products, our business requires a stream of new customers. The web is a source of them, but it is ever changing. Producing photography, text, and organization to keep the site fresh and in line with how people use the web is demanding.”
PeC: How did all this start, making furniture?
WEEKS: I’ve always been interested in making things and when I graduated from college, I had been earning a little money remodeling things and doing handyman and carpentry work for people. I just stayed with it and started larger jobs and general contracting up to including building houses and historical restoration. I put together a woodshop where we built doors and cabinets and began to build some furniture. I grew tired of general contracting and working out of the truck, so I wanted to find a product that I could market and sell, and I designed a rocking chair, which has become the anchor of the business.
PeC: How long have been making rocking chairs?
WEEKS: Fifteen years.
PeC: The guarantee you offer is impressive.
WEEKS: I think that’s kind of important to our success in Internet marketing, particularly because people can’t see it, touch it, or feel it.
PeC: How integral has your website been to your success?
WEEKS: It’s been very important. I would say 50 percent of the people find us in a web search and 95 percent of the people use the website to evaluate the product.
PeC: It must be difficult to convey comfort and quality online.
WEEKS: It is. The rocking chair, in the design process, I had 75 people sit in the thing and since then I’ve literally had thousands. I’ve watched thousands of people sit in that chair of every size and shape. I’ve heard so many of them, such a high percentage of them say, “This chair fits me and I love it. It’s comfortable.” That does not sound possible and so I don’t try to say that. What I do say is if it’s not comfortable for you, you can send it back and I’ll give you all your money, including freight. That’s a much easier statement to defend either online or on the telephone. I can say that I’ve heard over and over from people of various sizes that the chair is comfortable, but that’s neither here nor there. This is a contractual agreement. If it’s not comfortable for you, you haven’t bought it.
PeC: What challenges does the website pose?
WEEKS: It’s always a challenge to be on the first page of Google. It’s what we all want. I do have good rankings for just about any adjective you put with rocking chair: Cherry rocking chair, rocking chair for nursing, wooden rocking chair, handmade rocking chair. I’m either one or two or three.
PeC: How do you continue to reach new customers, attract new customers?
WEEKS: Well, the rocking chair is an item of furniture that is often purchased at milestones in life — new parents, new grandparents, a retirement. So that’s a constant demand and my goal is to get in front of them and the web does that beautifully.