YOU MAY NOT EXPECT A SELLER OF AMISH-MADE furniture to be an e-commerce pioneer. Yet JMX Brands since 2003 has carved out its own cyberspace niche selling Old World merchandise. With the opening of a Sarasota showroom, the DutchCrafters brand now boasts a physical store, but the priority for the local company remains expanding its digital reach. “A big plus from the store is that we saw some measurable increase in credibility with our online shoppers,” says Jim Miller, owner and CEO. “Customers in California who never set foot in our store were still a little more likely to buy if they knew we had one.” It’s the clicks-to-bricks revolution, Miller says, with online companies migrating into storefronts the way retailers 15 years ago exploded sales by putting inventories online. Since opening the 5,000-square-foot showroom for DutchCrafters Amish Furniture on Lockwood Ridge Road, JMX has quadrupled its sales among customers living within 100 miles of the company headquarters.

But the boost in foot traffic trails behind other benefits that come from having a physical display space. Interior designers locally have visited the store and been able to see furniture in decorated settings, not merely a warehouse. One designer in late February bought $35,000 worth of products in bulk after seeing the potential for use in homes, Miller says. And more importantly, those nicely designed showroom displays can be photographed so designers and individual consumers around the country can do the same. It’s the first time JMX has been able to provide the staging the product deserves, Miller says. As the furniture industry becomes more dependent on such online platforms as Houzz and Polyvore, visual showcases make a difference in conversion rates. But the company’s inventory always built upon the connections Miller brought through his Mennonite heritage, and the carpenters building bed stands in Pennsylvania barns don’t also have camera set-ups in their shops. Indeed, even when Miller brought modern technology into workspaces, there wasn’t much to see. “It’s dusty and not picturesque,” he says. “So that’s been another big plus from having the store.”

The improvements and expansions won the company recognition from GrowFL, which in 2016 named JMX Brands as one of 50 Florida Companies to Watch and lauded the business for growing sales from $6 million in 2014 to $7.9 million in 2015. “These stand-out companies are all led by entrepreneurs, and have demonstrated their capacity and intent to grow,” says Dr. Tom O’Neal, executive director of the Florida Economic Gardening Institute, of the GrowFL award recipients. “They also all have critical intellectual property or a niche position that gives them a competitive edge in their markets.” As of February, JMX Brands grew its workforce to 32 employees. And how that workforce gets put to use continues to evolve. The company this fall, in the first holiday season with a showroom open, saw a record November as Black Friday shoppers joined Cyber Monday consumers to boost retail success. At that point, Miller had 2.5 employees dedicated to the store. But now he wants a more integrated workforce. “We are now looking for more collaboration and synergy,” he says. “Figuring that piece out will help us determine what happens next with the store.”