HME supplier builds ‘Texas size’ showroom

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

HOUSTON - Following the premise that everything is bigger in Texas, Sandra Hoskin, CEO of American Medical Equipment, has built a 30,000-square-foot facility here featuring 12,000 square feet of retail space for home medical supplies.

“No one has a retail space that large in the area, maybe in the state,” commented Hoskin. The $2.5 million project on the acre of land she and her husband, James, own at the Texas Medical Center is a far cry from the 2,000-square-foot warehouse from which she launched the business in 1984, or even the 15,000 square feet of retail and warehouse space the company occupied for16 years.

The two-story building, scheduled to open in early September, is divided between retail space and insurance offices on the15,000-square-foot first floor and leased office space on the second. A 12,000-square-foot warehouse nearby houses inventory.

Building a new facility has allowed Hoskin to create a showplace for the products she sells as well as a user-friendly environment for handicapped and elderly clientele, with features such as wheelchair-accessible doorways and dressing rooms. There are even gravity-fed racks for diapers - an idea Hoskin said she discovered when visiting a national toy retailer.

“The architect set it up so everything in it is per code for HIPAA and ADA,” she said.

Another key design element involves the three vignettes that show medical equipment as it would be set up for in-home use. There is a hospital room with a bed, trapeze lift, and tables; a bathroom showcasing a wheelchair-accessible tub, commode and other bath aides; and a display with king-size electric beds “that don’t look anything like a hospital bed,” she said.

The whole setting “is meant to be very user friendly,” Hoskin said, right down to the two parking spaces equipped with speakers so customers can place orders and receive deliveries without leaving their cars. “We did it just for the ease of the handicapped population,” she explained.

Hoskin is using the larger retail space to expand her offering of nurse’s scrubs, accessories and shoes as well. “We had been outfitting nurses before,” she said, “but not with this much space.”

Although no longer a practicing nurse, Hoskin said she calls upon her extensive medical background when putting together systems for clients, ranging from urological to orthopedic.

It is that knowledge, combined with an attention to service and product mix, that she credits with the steady growth of her company. American Medical Equipment, which has been recognized by the Houston Business Journal as a top woman-owned company and a top small business, recorded revenue of $4.9 million in 2002, up from $3.6 million two years earlier. American Medical Equipment employs 60 people - 30 in the Houston office and the remainder at eight sites throughout the Southeast.

“A great deal of business is [attributed to] my goodwill that I put into the company,” she said, noting she secured many of the company’s initial contracts.

Today, a team of salespeople “spread the gospel” about American Medical Equipment. Even though the company has done well with word-of-mouth business, referrals and traffic from the medical center, she said it’s important “to constantly remind people that we’re out there.”