Showroom Personalizes Experience for Clients

Showroom Personalizes Experience for Clients 

By John Filippelli

While Clarke was the mastermind behind the overall showroom, Maygar acted as project manager/ general contractor, providing almost round-the-clock supervision of all deliveries and installations for the showroom. Also, contributing input to the project during various stages of its production were select kitchen designers from Fairfield County, CT.

Maygar, using Clarke's concepts, worked to transform the space which was previously a furniture store into a showroom with hardwood floors and high ceilings. A gated parking area frames what the company refers to as the "Clarke Experience."

The new Clarke showroom celebrated its grand opening early last month, with some 350 members of the kitchen and bath industry in attendance, as well as local and state government officials and members of the press. The showroom is designed to serve both the trade and the public, broadening Clarke's clientele base in New England and providing a worthy counterpart to the com-pany's MA-based showroom.

Many architects, interior designers and kitchen designers send in customers to explore the company's appliance choices. Showcasing built-in installations of virtually every brand and type of appliance, including Sub-Zero, Wolf, Thermador, Gaggenau and Independent Hood, the showroom's intention is to offer inspiration for clients and enable them to receive cutting-edge information from the Clarke staff.

"These appliances are chock full of options and high technology," says Marco Barallon, manager of the Clarke showroom.

While the Clarke showroom staff does not design actual kitchens for consumers, the company is constantly designing installations for its own showrooms and those in dealer locations. But, with a staff of 40 including a manager, four showroom consultants and a showroom chef visitors are treated to many amenities. These include personal tours, cooking demonstrations, custom recipe gift packets that showcase specific features of the company's appliances, and an intricately detailed Web site with specifications important to design professionals.

"We believe in pampering our customers," says Clarke, adding, "If you are considering spending thousands of dollars on appliances, you should expect personal attention and tremendous knowledge."

The company notes that homeowners are also welcome at the showroom without a dealer or designer referral, as long as they make an appointment. This allows the staff to offer visitors "personal treatment."

This treatment is highlighted by a brief, multi-media presentation that allows visitors to step out of their hectic lives and get ready for their private tour, the company notes. Once the orientation is complete, the Clarke showroom unveils a "world of kitchens," showcasing the latest appliance technology in kitchen vignettes. 

For instance, one style the Clarke showroom displays is Country English, which features a gas, electric and professional cooktop from Thermador as well as Sub-Zero refrigeration and Thermador wall ovens. In addition, the vignette offers handpainted tile that complements the professional cooktop, showcasing the various options customers have with this style.

The Edwardian style displayed in another vignette features a formal English design. It is highlighted by cooktops, wall ovens and warming drawers by Thermador, a Sub-Zero side-by-side refrigerator and Acorn Cabinetry. According to the company, both the gas cooktop and refrigerator give the impression of furniture, adding a sense of warmth and comfort to the vignette. 

Other vignette styles highlighted by the Clarke showroom include French Country, Asian and Tuscan.
After the "world of kitchens" presentation, visitors are treated to vignettes featuring American arts and crafts detailing, new country looks and upscale contemporary and urban styles, adding an eclectic essence to the showroom. The site also features two live demonstration kitchens, as well as a Mediterranean-style wine grotto that offers various renditions of wine storage from Sub-Zero.

When visitors complete the tour, a consultant offers the names of authorized dealers in their area where prices for the appliances are quoted and delivery is arranged.

The Clarke showroom prides itself on being "family friendly," with a fantasy children's play kitchen that comes complete with a castle motif, Gaggenau appliances and Wilkinson cabinetry. According to Clarke, this was installed to keep children busy while their parents explore the showroom. Child visitors are even presented with a chef's apron to remind them of their visit to the showroom. "We tried to think of everything," explains Jim Raftus, director of marketing, referring to Clarke's "KidChef" experience.

With all of this, the company insists that the integral part of the Clarke experience is its staff, one that ensures visitors a full-service encounter. "We pride ourselves on having most of the answers, and for the few we don't have, we know where to get them," notes Barallon.

Though Clarke himself has won several different awards, including a 1999 Industry Leadership Award from Kitchen & Bath Design News and 1999 Entrepreneur of the Year from Ernst & Young, he refuses to rest on his laurels. "We will constantly be updating and innovating in this showroom," he notes, "[and] we plan to roll what 
we've learned back across to our Hopkinton, MA resource center in the near future." But, he adds, "This is the cutting edge in this slice of time."

Known for its aggressive marketing approach, led by Raftus, the company uses a multi-pronged program of television ads, magazine ads, newspaper ads and public relations efforts to gain further attention. 

Clarke provides appliance dealers and designers across New England with point-of-sale invitation displays that encourage customers to make an appointment to tour the showroom. This type of creative marketing not only strengthens the company's relationship with customers, but has helped Clarke forge a strong partnership with its dealers, who in turn recommend the showroom to potential customers.

Clarke recognizes that with this demand, his company must be able to supply a unique experience for those who visit his showroom. 

"Though our dealers are far more dedicated to properly displaying built-in appliances than ever before, we still cannot expect them to have everything on their display floors," he stresses. "That's why we build our showrooms."