Photos by Phillip Shinoda.

Sept. 1, 2011    
Tom Bazzone has made a career out of developing new businesses for national chains like Williams-Sonoma and Restoration Hardware. Now he’s leading a Dallas-based green business to greater heights of success.

Bazzone’s new venture started in 2008, when after leaving a job as Executive Vice President at Michaels, he was looking for the next hot industry in retail. He quickly realized green was a growing market. However, he saw that the stores that existed were often run by passionately idealist people with little retail experience.

I said, ‘I think there’s an opportunity to do this better,’” said Bazzone.

After doing some research, he discovered Green Living, a green retail store in Dallas and learned that the owners were wanting to make a change. He made them an offer to buy it and in late 2008 took over the Lakewood-area store. As the new owner, he immediately applied his decades of experience operating highly successful retail stores. First, he installed sophisticated record-keeping systems and took a hard look at the inventory. He begin to phase out items, such as jewelry, apparel and baby products, that were taking up valuable space but not generating much revenue. (Tom Bazzone with paint with no Volatile Organic Compounds - VOC)

Meanwhile, he believed that in today’s economy, while customers might not splurge on eco-friendly shoes, many environmentally conscious homeowners were willing to spend money on green home necessities, such as flooring and bedding, for health and value reasons. As he added bigger items, he realized he needed a bigger store. “We had outgrown that space,” he said.

His lease at his 1,200-square-foot storefront was ending in 2010, so he scoured the Metroplex for a new location. He settled on a 3,800-square-foot space in the industrial Design District west of downtown Dallas.

In late February, with a new focus on home improvement items, the store held a grand opening in its new location. Today, Green Living’s light-filled showroom showcases cork, linoleum, recycled rubber and reclaimed hardwood flooring, along with recycled glass countertops and tile and bamboo shag rugs. Displays of non-VOC paint and low-VOC adhesives line the shelves. Nearby cotton, wool and buckwheat pillows are stacked next to the store’s biggest seller, organic natural latex mattresses.

So far, Bazzone said the changes have been a success. The location, near I-35 and I-30, make it accessible to people across the Metroplex. In addition, designers and contractors from the Design District have become regular customers. 

Eventually, Bazzone plans to add furniture and additional bedding into the store, sticking to Green Living’s five core principles that ensure its stock includes only natural, sustainable, conservation-minded, recycled or fair trade products.

He’s found the right balance of brand integrity and retail savvy. “My passion is growing businesses,” he said. “In order for the business to be sustainable, it had to change.”

Green Living 1130 Dragon St, Suite 140 Dallas, TX 75207 214-821-8444

Julie Thibodeaux is a former writer and editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Contact her at [email protected].

Photo credit: Green Source DFW