And he noticed that increasingly his company was losing bids to so-called "green" suppliers of more environmentally-friendly products.
"That got me thinking that this (green movement) was more than just a flash in the pan," said Brotherton, owner of 510 Interiors, a new eco-friendly commercial and residential interior design shop in downtown.
Rather than compete against the increasingly popular green movement, Brotherton decided to become part of it.
Three months ago, he started 510 Interiors at 510 Columbia St. S.W.
He sells flooring, countertops and accessories, including window fashions, cabinets and furniture, organic bedding and water-saving toilets.
Brotherton is measured about his commitment to green products.
"I'm not an eco-warrior," he said. "What we're trying to do is make these products more mainstream."
Some of Brotherton's flooring is reclaimed from Fort Lewis. He also sells a flooring made from cork. His countertops include material from recycled concrete and glass. His bedding is organic natural wool.
Olympia architect Garner Miller stopped in Tuesday to examine the shop's cork flooring. Such material is uncommon or next to impossible to find in South Sound, he said.
"He's got a lot of stuff you can't find anywhere around here," said Miller, who said he typically shopped for eco-friendly items either in Seattle or Portland before 510 Interiors opened. "It's really neat to know this shop is here."
Miller increasingly finds himself shopping for recycled products because state government building and remodeling projects are calling for more green products, he said.
South Sound green builders also say they're encouraged to be able to refer customers to a more convenient interior outfitter.
"We've been sending customers to Seattle," said Fiona Douglas-Hamilton, an owner of Olympia's Apple Homes. Apple builds homes using recycled wood; heats homes with water tubes installed in the floors; and outfits the homes with energy-saving "on demand" water heaters.
"For Olympia, 510 Interiors is a fabulous resource," Douglas-Hamilton said.
Though Brotherton is relieved not to have much nearby competition, he said he expects South Sound competition to increase in a few years.
Until then, Brotherton said he doesn't miss travel, especially with children ages 2 and 10 months. Owning a store, he said, is friendlier than being a traveling salesman.
"I've met more people in two months than I did in five years," he said.