The U.S. home upgrade industry generates more than $350 billion in annual revenue. In a field still dominated by Home Depot and Lowe’s, TreeHouse, “the revolutionary home upgrade company”, has lofty plans.
“We need to retrofit every home in America,” Jason Ballard, CEO and founder of TreeHouse, declares.
While your initial perception of TreeHouse may be a “green” version of Home Depot, the reality is about as different as Tide Pods and Eco Nuts. TreeHouse’s mission is to change the way we live, not just what we buy.
For example, Eco Nuts are the dried outer shells of berries that grow in different parts of Asia and work in replacement of detergent by reducing the surface tension between water and the dirt on your clothes. The result is clean, chemical-free laundry which is healthier for your family and our planet. (Eco Nuts are available at TreeHouse’s third location at Park and Preston in Plano.)
Jason Ballard likens himself to Huckleberry Finn. Growing up in the Big Thicket of East Texas, he bore witness to the beauty of the pine woods—and the destructive force of timber harvesting. He loved the smell of the salty sea air, but lived in the shadow of Gulf Coast oil refineries. The “desecration of the landscape” is burned into his memory and has become part of his psyche.
With the intention to become a conservation biologist, Jason studied ecology and biology focusing on the relationship between the environment and human health issues at Texas A&M. He then started the process to become an Episcopal priest. Instead, while building greenhouses in the front range of Colorado, the concept for TreeHouse was born.
His idea was simple: to rethink and revolutionize home improvement with the aim to “build better shelters for ourselves, our communities, and our planet”.
As demand for cheaper products has grown, a poison has crept into our homes. In a place where we should feel the safest, our home is where we will be exposed to the greatest number of toxins in our lifetime. Houses are also the biggest consumers of natural resources, such as water and energy, and produce the largest amount of landfill waste.
On a mission to solve this problem, TreeHouse opened in Austin with a 25,000-square-foot store. Having collaborated with leading architects and partners in sustainability, the bright and clean space was filled with the latest and greatest eco-friendly home upgrade solutions: the Tesla Powerwall, energy-efficient Haiku by Big Ass Fans, Whirlpool’s Zera food recycler, Dunn-Edwards non-toxic paint and Nebia’s water atomizing shower head.
By the third year, with a 75 percent increase in sales from year one, TreeHouse was a commercial success. Yet, while his investors were celebrating, Jason felt there was more to be done.
“Our mission is to change the way people live, not help them replace a lightbulb here and there,” Jason says. “If people are just replacing one window at a time, it would take thousands of years for us to make a real difference.”
In order to transform homes into truly healthy environments, the vast majority need far more than a lick of non-toxic paint and a new high-energy fan for the dining room. We need solar panels, kitchen and bathroom remodels, water filters, air filters, recycled furniture, and so much more. These aren’t things you pick up on a casual Sunday stroll through the store.
“Three years in we realized we needed to offer in-home services,” Jason says. “If we wanted people to invest in changing their environments then we needed to help them. Sustainable living is not a DIY project.”
TreeHouse pivoted the business to focus on exactly that.
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“We tackle big projects: remodels, renovations, new builds,” Jason says. “We hire professionals with decades of experience in the business: building analysts, building consultants, solar consultants. These are the people you need to help you completely rethink your approach to home upgrades.”
At TreeHouse in Plano, these skilled and trained professionals are ready to help you, whether you want to discuss options for installing Smart Home technology or you want to remodel your kitchen.
They also have a gorgeous selection of succulents—because while TreeHouse’s focus is on in-home services they realize that not everyone is ready to commit to a roof-full of solar panels and a Tesla Powerwall to go with it. If today all you’re interested in is a terrarium and a new set of patio furniture crafted out of recycled milk jugs, then TreeHouse is there for you. Then, tomorrow, when you’re ready to re-tile your kitchen, they’ll welcome you with open arms and samples including the Fire Tile made of reclaimed porcelain from old toilets and sinks.
Jason recognizes that change isn’t going to happen overnight. “We’re not moving at light speed,” he says. “But if in 20 years we’re touching every home in America, I’d consider that a huge success.”
For now, Jason is planning their nationwide expansion which he hopes will be well on its way within the next five years. The decision to open a store in Plano was a key component of their nationwide strategy.
With their first two stores located in Dallas and Austin, the company felt it was important to learn how to serve the suburban market because a large portion of American homes is outside of urban areas.
“Plano really caught our attention because of its housing stock, the culture of community care, and business ecosystem,” Jason says. “Two other important metrics for TreeHouse are the percent of homes that are occupied by the owner, and college education. In those two areas, Plano lit up like a Christmas tree. Once we saw we could be next door to Whole Foods, it was a clear choice.”
Already, the Plano location with its trendy bocce ball court is proving successful. “We set a new record for first month sales within the first week.”
As he looks to the future, Jason Ballard is not only thinking green, he’s thinking big. “There isn’t an aspiration home improvement company in the way Apple is an aspiration electronics company,” he says. “I think we can be that.”