Renovating on the Cape can, indeed, be an ennervating experience. One would think, with all the money that gets poured into residential construction on this small spit of land, that the building pros and their suppliers here would have the process down to a science and that the relatively modest redo of two small bathrooms would be a piece of cake. Instead, one gets the feeling that contractors and, especially, retailers feel the need to reinvent the renovating wheel with each new project.

It all comes down to the perceived boundary of the bridges. Boston is a mere 90-minute drive away, and its wealthy, South Shore suburbs are even closer. But Cape homeowners appear to be oblivious to the world of product- and service-providers that exist just across the Bourne and Sagamore bridges – or they’re just too lazy to drive the extra half hour to find some decent options. Either way, this insular thinking means residents here, though within easy reach of a major metropolitan area, might just as well be living in a Midwest rural outpost when it comes to market competition.

First off, finding a supplier with a decent, well, supply of plumbing products on the Cape is well-nigh impossible. Mid-Cape Home Centers – the local contractor resource of choice – appears to be a firm believer in the Henry Ford, any-color-so-long-as-it’s-black, school of customer choice. Even their “Complete Home Center” showroom in the big city of Hyannis displays a grand total of 3 toilets, two pedestal sinks and a couple of vanities. And if you want to know what any of these products cost, you’ll have to sign in and speak with a representative – keeping price tags up to date on this comprehensive inventory is, apparently, beyond the abilities of even this “Complete” retailer.

Home Depot in Hyannis is a bit more forthcoming about price, but, again, inventory leaves a bit to be desired, and when you’re trying to find a sink to fit a 20-inch-wide space, selection is crucial. Even specialty plumbing “showrooms” display little more than a few obligatory fixtures alongside the bookshelves of black-and-white catalogs that are supposed to suffice in place of actual, three-dimensional products. It’s like stepping back to the time of Sears & Roebuck’s old Christmas “Wish Books.”

The people working “customer service” are often little more than catalog pullers – come in knowing exactly what you want, and they can pull the catalogs and write up your order. But if you need a little comparative guidance, be prepared for frustration.

So, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Internet – printing up spec sheets for products I’ve used in the past in an attempt to recreate the success of those projects. I work the phones, make repeated visits to minimally helpful “showrooms,” and hope for the best. Of course, I could follow my own advice and seek out suppliers across the canal…

But, then, I’d have to cross the bridge.

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