Style, Design, and Functionality: How One Berks County Family Business Has Reinvented the Home Design Process Inside and Out

Written by Emily Fitzpatrick Kenniston

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Photo courtesy Empire Home Center.

For homeowners of all ages, the design of one’s home is one of the most important–and personal–elements of home ownership. This can also be an extremely daunting process for many: from the color scheme in each room, to the type of flooring used, to the tilework in the kitchens and bathrooms, it can be very easy for homeowners to become overwhelmed as they try to bring their personal vision to life. Thankfully, Empire Home Center is here to help customers through every step of the process from start to finish.

​Originally known as Empire Surplus Home Center, the business has been a Berks County establishment since its inception in 1955. In 1999, the business moved from its original location in Reading to Leesport, and in 2019 it was officially renamed Empire Home Center.

Additionally, a second location, Empire Home Design Center, was opened in West Reading in November 2020. The two locations work in perfect harmony to ensure that any homeowner–from complete novices, to DIY devotees, to those working with professional contractors to completely design or redesign their home–can feel at ease knowing that they have both all of the materials they need to complete their projects, and experienced employees to guide them.

Co-owners Harry and Melinda O’Neill purchased the business from Harry’s father in 2019, and transformed it into Empire Home Center, a full-service, one-stop-shop home store. “As a business, we serve five main types of clientele: homeowners, contractors, realtors, remodelers, and investors.” shared Melinda. “We provide quality products from trusted vendors at a great value, and we listen to our customers. If our price isn’t right, we want to know about it. We are completely open to the public and work directly with homeowners–you don’t have to have a contractor. We make sure that we direct clients to the best products for their home that’s out there, for the best price. When we help someone plan out their house we always want to know: ‘how do you live in this space?’ That is so important when you are thinking about the functionality of the design of your home.”

She also shared that Empire Home Design is an excellent resource for home remodelers looking to increase the selling price of their home. “We really help [remodelers] get the best quality products they can for their money,” she said. “Harry and I are realtors ourselves; we know what buyers want, and that ensures that we can really help our customers.”

​In addition to providing everything a homeowner might need to redesign their home from the ground up, Empire Home Center also provides another very important service during this unprecedented time for the housing market–staging services. Having one’s home professionally staged for listing photos can be a game-changer for those looking to sell at the top of the market and receive their asking price.

“We have the only staging room [on display] in Berks County,” said Melinda. “Nobody else in this area has that. For example, we have complete kitchens in-stock–they are already assembled; they can be installed in [a home] that day. No one else in Berks County provides that service.”

According to both Harry and Melinda, it is a true family business in every sense of the word. Their son, Max, attends school at Sacred Heart School in West Reading, across the street from the West Reading location.

“He comes to the store after school, very independently, and often gets right to work helping us out,” shared Melinda, noting that her son was grateful for the sense of responsibility that comes from being an important part of a family business, even at such a young age. She also shared how grateful she and Harry are for their dedicated employees, who–much like family–ensure the success of their small business.

The O’Neills themselves work tirelessly to give back to their community in every way possible–from supporting local schools, sports teams, and other businesses, to helping plan community events and collaborating with local businesses as much as possible. The work that they do in and for the community shows–Empire Home Center won the Reading Eagle Best Home Remodeling Award in both 2021 and 2022, the Reading Eagle Best Home Exterior Award in 2022, and the Berks County Living Best Home Remodeler Award in 2022.

“We provide quality products at the best value—not the cheapest, but the best quality,” said Melinda. “We took a look at our competitors, and saw what [the community] needed so we could fill in a niche. We do that while always supporting our fellow small business owners–collaboration is so much better than competition.”

​Empire Home Center is located at 2741 Bernville Rd, Leesport, PA 19533, and Empire Home Design Center is located at 641 Penn Ave, West Reading, PA 19611. For more information, call (610) 926-0500, visit empirehomecenter.com, and check out their socials: Facebook: facebook.com/EmpireSurplus and Instagram: @empire_homecenter

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Empire Surplus sells a comprehensive line of closeout, buyback, liquidation and other hard to find products for the building and remodeling industry. We have over 50 years of experience providing builders, contractors, home centers, and consumers with incredible savings on windows, doors, flooring, whirlpools and spas, faucets, and kitchen and bath products.