Recognizing a need and implementing a way to fill that need is the foundation of any successful business. This has been the formula for Brooklyn, NY-based Solco Plumbing Supply, which has provided plumbing products for kitchens and baths for almost 30 years.
In acknowledging the continued trend toward more technologically advanced and highly styled kitchen and bath fixtures, Solco recently doubled in size, adding a 700-sq.-ft. wing to its existing 700-sq.-ft. plumbing showroom. The new addition is a Kohler Registered Showroom, the only exclusively Kohler showroom in Brooklyn, Solco reports.
The focus on Kohler was a natural fit, according to David Stoler, showroom manager for Solco's Kohler showroom. "Kohler is a brand that Solco has been distributing for 20 years," he reports. "The products represent the overall trend in bathroom design, in which customers want their baths to be their castles."
The current showroom opened at this quiet Bay Ridge location in 2001. The original space sports walls of plumbing products from such companies as Delta, Brizo, Grohe, Danze and California Faucets, as well as mini vignettes that feature tubs, showers, sinks and toilets. The new Kohler addition is a complement to that space, offering "a gallery presentation of lifestyle suites and the latest fixtures and faucets" from the company, Solco maintains.
A grand opening celebration for the Kohler showroom was held on June 9, with local executives from Kohler on hand, as well as Solco Plumbing showroom staff and personnel from its headquarters, located in another section of Brooklyn. Local politicians were also on hand for the official opening. Approximately 75 to 100 attendees included Solco’s customers, as well as contractors, designers, architects and engineers. Stoler notes that the company also invited real estate and management companies that work directly with the staff.
Partners in design
Stoler partnered with Kohler's designers to create the showroom, utilizing technology for a smooth transition over long distances. "I sent them a schematic of the space, and, since Kohler is located in Wisconsin, we worked back and forth via e-mail," he notes.
He observes that the final result is a clean, understated showroom design that lets the products speak for themselves. "The showroom is very simple to the point that it doesn’t take away from the product. It's just basically playing to the product," he remarks. "We let people use their imaginations, to see the products in their context."
Among the three bath vignettes within the space are the Purist suite, an ultra modern design that includes Kohler's new hatbox designed toilet and overflow tub, and the Katherine suite, which offers a 1920s New York City look. Kohler’s new Cimmaron toilet is also featured prominently.
In addition, dotted throughout the space is a toilet section as well as several tubs and sinks encased in dark wood. "The lav display is multi-level, and you can pull out each individual sink from the display for a closer look," he continues. Each of the sinks is teamed with a complementary faucet.
Similar to the lav display, the showroom also features a bi-level kitchen sink display, where each individual sink glides out from the wall. Several of the kitchen sinks are teamed with accessories such as strainers, soap dispensers and drain boards.
Along the back wall, displayed artfully on dark wood, is a range of faucets, lav sets and shower heads, among other plumbing hardware.
Stoler notes that the modular design of the showroom allows for changing of products and presentation as new products are introduced. "Kohler has set it up so that it can be changed over time," he explains. "For instance, with the bi-level sink displays, the countertops can be interchanged, so you can install different cutouts for different sinks."
Changing out is something the showroom has already done. "Over the period that we were planning out the showroom, we made sure to incorporate updates," he remarks. One such update was the installation of the Hatbox toilet, which was introduced during the planning stage.
Although the showroom is located in the heart of Brooklyn, it isn't on a major roadway. "The location is probably the complete opposite of where you'd want to have a showroom," affirms Stoler. "It's in the middle of a residential area, rather than on a main avenue."
But, the location hasn't seemed to hurt the compan's business. "All of these years, our business has been primarily word of mouth - mostly contractors," says Stoler. "We don't just sell a product and forget about the customer. Six months down the line, a year later, or whatever, we’re still there to help out the customer."
Solco enjoys repeat customers, who come back to the company when they move and do another house, or when they do a summer house, Stoler states.
Now, old and new clients can visit the Kohler showroom and interact with the firm’s team of sales personnel dedicated to those products. All showroom personnel receive extensive sales and product training, Stoler notes, and are well versed in installation, product and design trends, he reports.
Of the new addition, Stoler believes that it will not only increase sales of Kohler products for the company, but have an overall beneficial effect on the whole showroom. "I'm sure that the addition will enhance our sales on all of the other vendors that we sell," Stoler affirms.
He continues, "So far, it's working very well, and I foresee it expanding even more in the future. There's room to grow."