Elegantly Simple

Manheim's n|vision™ encases exquisite home theaters within finely-finished furniture.

By Barbara Trainin Blank

Matt Early is not only willing to talk about the "elephant in the room," he's happy to talk about it. The Lancaster County entrepreneur even has a solution to make the "elephant" manageable–and in some cases, disappear.

Only this "elephant" isn't the family eccentric or secret; it's bigscreen (and specifically, plasma) TV.

What a lot of people aren't willing to talk about, according to a recent (November 12-13) cover story in the Wall Street Journal, is that despite a drop in price of 30 percent or more in the price of these TVs, making them increasingly accessible, these "elephants" still have a major glitch. As the Journal puts it, "There's more to the purchase than just the price tag."

There may be extras needed for a fully loaded system, a bracket to hang the screen, someone to run wires behind the wall, and new furniture to hold the TV, to name a few.

But Early markets as solution– a "one-stop shopping approach" that literally combines both a plasma TV as well as the furniture on which it rests. And an elegant piece of furniture at that.

Through his recently launched Manheim-based company n|vision™ (pronounced "envision"), Early offers an integrated system of highend audiovisual equipment– including a plasma TV and room for a DVD player–designed right into fine furniture.

There are more than 32 models of furniture cabinets in the n|vision™ catalog. Customers can choose either a fixed television system–in which the TV screen sits astride the furniture–or retractable system–in which, in James Bondian fashion, the television set actually disappears into the cabinet when not in use.

"I started n|vision™ in response to public demand for an easy-towork, nonobtrusive home theater system," said Early. "We help answer the questions people usually ask about plasma television sets–where do I buy it, what do I need to go with it, and where do I put it."

One of those questions is "where is the remote?" For consumers who are forever wondering which remote to use for their big-screen (or any) TV, assuming they can find any, n|vision™ offers one single master remote.

"It's something you couldn't buy on the normal market," said Early. "It's programmed via software to accommodate the client's needs and uses a touch-screen system that's user friendly. People are usually relieved to see they can understand it."

But what customers may value even behind the cutting-edge technology and fine furniture combo is the company's emphasis on service.

n|vision™ comes into the home to share its catalog, to analyze the technical needs of the prospective customer's home, to deliver and to set up the home entertainment center. It also provides "fine-tuning" and service of the system for one year.

"Our average customer is a young or middle-aged professional, 35 to 65, maybe building his or her dream home," he said. "They have disposable funds, but they don't have time to research. They like the simplicity we offer."

Early tries to offer answers to clients he feels they're unable to get from retail electronic stores with "uneducated" salespeople or a "boxpushing" approach.

Although it's tempting to draw a link from n|vision's fine cabinets to the flourishing carpentry industry in Lancaster County, it wouldn't be entirely accurate. The company purchases most of the cabinets from manufacturers, notably Hooker Furniture in Virginia.

However, customers interested in ordering a customized cabinet can do so. n|vision™ is fortuitously located right near the Hampton Cabinetry Shop, on a rural road in Manheim. Hamptom can order customized furniture.

A "starter package" at n|vision™ begins at about $5,900, but that's only if a customer selects from one of the models in the catalog and not a customized design.

While it may take "disposable funds" to purchase an n|vision™ product, it's free to observe one of the company's samples in the center court of the Park City Mall.

"Everyone stops by and is very excited by what they see," Early said. "They all want to know where they can get a plasma TV."

The entrepreneur loves living in Lancaster County–he and his wife, Bernadette, a banker, are here for the long haul. But from a business perspective, he is using Lancaster County as a test market. As n|vision™ grows, he expects to find customers in larger urban areas as well, such as Chester County, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

n|vision™ may be new, but Early, 43, is no Johnny-come-lately to the world of technology and media. A native of Hummelstown, he spent 12 years in New York City working in the music and electronics industries. He ran a design and installation firm in the New York area until he met his wife in 1993, and the two decided to relocate to the quieter life of Lancaster County.

Early also founded and presides over Residential Media Systems, Ltd. (RMS), of which n|vision™ is technically a new division.

RMS, established eight years ago, creates automated systems for the home that control lighting, music, heating and cooling, security, and any number of other functions with one panel and a touch-screen system.

"With one interface, the customer can access the system locally," Early explained. "We work with interior designers, architects, and the customers themselves to help design the system in a home."

It may also be tempting to identify the entrepreneur to forward only. In reality, Early likes to collect furniture from the "antiquities" of the electronics age, such as pieces going back to Thomas Edison. And he sees parallels between what his company does and the living room of the 1950s. 

"We're really about simplicity, a return to the past," Early said. "Our home system is like a modern-day version of the console that used to be in every home." 

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Dec 2, 2005 / Articles