Ed Lewis has made his career in home health care — and in running his own businesses. A nurse for 42 years, Lewis has worked in hospital settings, health clinics and in home health.
So he knows what home health care requires, and for the past 10 years he has used that knowledge as owner and operator of Kansas City Home Medical Supply, a retail store offering a large inventory of durable medical goods for the consumer. Home Medical Supply has two locations — one in Overland Park and one in Lee’s Summit.
At the time Lewis bought Kansas City Home Medical Supply, he was already operating three other businesses; a real estate company, an adult day care and a home health agency.
“It was kind of by chance,” said Lewis of his purchase of Home Medical Supply. “Someone that I knew wanted to sell her business and she gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I was still working in home health, so it was a good companion business.”
Using his own finances, Lewis bought the business. His first year was challenging as Lewis continued to run his other ventures.
“I am not unaccustomed to having a lot of balls in the air,” Lewis said. “Now I am down to just the medical supply store, and it feels good.”
Home Medical Supply carries almost 2,000 products, which Lewis buys from eight distributers. Products range from wound care kits to wheelchairs, lifts and hospital beds. The majority of products are purchased, although the store does not take any insurance as payment, but “we do a lot of rentals,” too, Lewis said. Delivery usually is included in the price. “If we are renting you a hospital bed, we need a special vehicle for that, so we have to charge for that,” he said.
Q: How do you manage such a large inventory?
“We have a software system that allows us to keep good track of things,” Lewis said. The system includes bar coding each item.
“The benefits of scanning have really helped us,” he said. “It was a major, time-consuming task to convert to this, but it has helped us improve our tracking inventory and makes sales more efficient.”
Q: What sets your company apart from other durable medical goods stores?
“Our strength, and what makes us unique, is we have nurses and therapists (on staff) who have experience with medical equipment and the educational background to know how it works and how to use it properly,” Lewis said. “We consider ourselves educators as much as salespeople.”
Lewis said his stores’ extensive inventory also enabled customers to walk in and try things our rather than looking at a page in a catalog or an image on a website.
Q: How do customers come to you?
Lewis said most of the store’s customers arrive through word of mouth or referral by health care professionals. Lewis said Home Medical Supply is a destination type of store.
“You may drive right by us and never have noticed us until you needed us,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for someone to walk into the store and ask, ‘How long have you been here?’”
Home Medical Supply opened its second location a year ago in Lee’s Summit.
Q: Why did you decide to open a second location?
“We had customers asking about it all the time,” Lewis said. “If a customer demands something enough times it’s a best practice to meet those demands.”
Lewis said he had a significant number of customers traveling from the eastern side of the metro area to the Overland Park location. After doing some feasibility research, Lewis felt there was room for a second store to serve the marketplace. He decided to open the Lee’s Summit store in a strip shopping center.
“I wanted to find a retail space that was in a high-traffic area and had a mix of businesses that would appeal to our older demographic,” he said.
Q. How does Lewis balance running two locations?
Aside from working 50 hours a week, Lewis said, “I have good employees” who help him keep both stores running smoothly. Business has been so good that Lewis is considering opening a third location sometime soon.
The bottom line for him, Lewis says, is he likes helping people, and Home Medical Supply lets him do just that.
“It’s just great,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for someone to come in the store and say, ‘Our mom just died; we wanted to say thank you for all the kinds of things you helped her with.’ It’s those kinds of stories that make this enjoyable.”
IN A NUTSHELL
COMPANY: Kansas City Home Medical Supply
ADDRESS: 9538 Nall, Overland Park (Second location: 400 S.W. Ward Road, Lee’s Summit)