Three years ago Vailes Brothers built a new showroom that included a working kitchen and an open room in the back for future expansion. When Robert Vailes, owner of the Fishersville, Va., remodeling company was approached by a former client who worked at a local community college about using the spaces for adult education classes, he knew it would be a good match. “It was a way to keep our name in the community,” Vailes says. “The people that attend the classes talk about our showroom to their friends and families,” and, he adds, the company's showroom is impressive, with high-end appliances, beautiful cabinetry, and hand-painted murals.

The remodeling company began its connection with Blue Ridge Community College by hosting cooking classes. Appetizer and pastry classes meet in the Vailes showroom once per week for three to four weeks during the spring and fall sessions.

The college then asked one of Vailes Brothers' designers to teach a kitchen and bath design class. It also recently added home improvement seminars on drywall and plumbing that are taught by Vailes' carpenters in the building's basement shop.

Vailes Brothers staff who teach the classes receive a nominal fee from the college, but Vailes also pays them for their extra time. In addition, Vailes covers the cost of the utilities for lighting and the cooking equipment used during the classes. He does not charge the college, but classifies these costs as a charitable donation for a tax deduction.

Vailes also allows a remodeling peer group and a realtor group to use the open room, which seats 40 people, for their meetings. “This gets more and more people into our showroom,” he says.