Davis & Warshow’s 58th St. NYC showroom is green, modern and sophisticated.

Persistence and consistency pay off.  In the 2008 Showroom of the Year contest, Davis & Warshow’s showroom at 96 Spring Street in Manhattan was a very close runner-up in the 2,500 to 9,999-sq.-ft. showroom size category. This year its brand new showroom at the A & D (Architecture and Design) Building, located at 150 East 58th Street in midtown Manhattan, is the winner. These two showrooms are only 2.5 miles apart - but David Finkel, vice president at Davis & Warshow, said there is a world of difference between the two marketplaces. Only in New York would markets change in such a short distance.

Davis & Warshow is an 84-year-young business, employs 230 people, operates 11 branches, seven showrooms and one distribution center. It is headquartered in Maspeth, NY, and the fourth generation of the Finkel family is working in the business. In 2006 the company became 100% employee-owned. The company was named Wholesaler of the Year by this fine publication in 1988 and 2003. The awards just keep piling up!

David Finkel advised that showrooms have been a very important part of the company’s overall business strategy for a very long time and that Davis & Warshow’s newly revamped showroom in the A & D Building will join Soho as a flagship location. The old showroom comprised about 1,800 sq. ft. of space and the new space is almost twice that size - thanks to two neighboring spaces becoming available. The company retained the services of well-known architect Emanuela Frattini Magnusson to design the new space. Ms. Frattini Magnusson blended Davis & Warshow’s 150 brands of plumbing, fixtures, faucets, furniture and accessories into a calming, tranquil, functional and inspiring presentation and environment.

In keeping with the company’s “Practically Green” initiative (more on this later), the LEED-accredited architect incorporated construction and design features to help make this location one of Davis & Warshow’s greenest and most eco-responsible. Low-VOC paints and coatings, FSC-certified woods, and high-efficiency/low-consumption lighting were specified for the showroom. A fresh green tint, reminiscent of sea glass, adds just the right punch of color to the space that is light and airy in predominant shades of white and cool grays. The fresh, neutral palette allows product, arranged by type for easy comparison, to be king. An innovative floor-to-ceiling panel system displaying acrylic-mounted faucets allows visitors to remove their favorites and try them out with a sink, tub or other accessories, while providing a translucent screen for the showroom staff’s work areas. In other words, this is one very good-looking, sophisticated showroom. It’s no surprise that the entire showroom and the products on display lean heavily toward the more modern. After all, this is New York City!

The A & D Building where the showroom is located features 40 showrooms of various home-type products, covers more than 200,000 sq. ft. of display space and has 12 floors of showrooms. You can learn more by going towww.adbuilding.com.

Both of Davis & Warshow’s flagship New York City showrooms cater mainly to the design trade and architects - but the doors are open to plumbing contractors and consumers as well.

The architect created a series of photocollages enlarged to 30-inch by 45-inch poster size and silk-screened onto panel facades, which in turn have been fabricated into light boxes.  These are suspended from the ceiling and inject an inspirational note and a unique decorative touch.  The kitchen area also features this original art concept, crowned by a single 45-inch by 72-inch horizontal still life of a teapot and other cookware icons.

Bath products occupy the most space - these products are organized and displayed by type.  Tubs are in front, followed by vessel sinks and then undermount sinks.  Each sink is displayed within custom cabinetry built to accommodate triple tiers of products.  The vessel styles are shown in open shelving while the undermounts are featured in drawers.  The showroom has no vignettes or “staged” displays.

Running on a parallel track with all of the sinks is a display of faucets mounted on acrylic pods.  These units hook onto a floor-to-ceiling rail and translucent panel system.  The faucet display system obscures the work stations but still allows the sales staff to keep an eye on the showroom.

Shower systems are displayed in a free-standing cube clad in acrylic, surrounding visitors with a stunning display of the latest styles, including massive rainheads suspended from above.

As you can see from the pictures, there is very little accessorization, no manufacturer names, numbers or prices on the products.  This gives a very “clean” look to the more modern display theme.  Most of you know that I like the displays to “feel like home,” but in this contemporary setting this look works extremely well.

Sheldon Malc, the company’s director of showrooms, said, “For 25 years our 58th Street showroom has been the face of Davis & Warshow for the architects and design community in New York.”

The company employs 22 showroom sales consultants, of which seven work in the A & D Building location.

Training employees starts day one and never ends.  New employees spend time at the company headquarters in Maspeth, NY, where there is an in-house trainer.  They are taught to use the Eclipse Software and are introduced to the Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association (DPHA) and American Supply Association (ASA) training manuals.  New employees are mentored by seasoned sales consultants and each showroom uses the “lunch and learn” program of product knowledge training with their vendors.

Marketing of the showrooms is accomplished via various means of advertising (a well thought-out and planned program), a variety of customer events and educational programs that are held in each of the showrooms.  Many of these programs are CEU accredited.  It’s not surprising that a large part of the marketing for their New York City showrooms is directed to the design and architecture trades.

I wish I had twice the space for this article because Davis & Warshow has a couple of great initiatives going on.  Everyone’s aware that “green” is one of the hottest buzz words out there.  This company is truly walking the walk in this area - including heating and air conditioning systems, lighting, all the paper it uses and the latest in water-efficiency products.  The company calls their efforts in this area “Practically Green.”  They’ve done educational programs on the subject for the plumbing trade and the architect and design trade.  They are also working hard to turn the tide against bottled water by encouraging everyone to go to reusable bottles.

Kohler Premier Showroom

One reason we saved the Davis &Warshow article for the last in our series of 2009 Showroom of the Year stories is because we can now proudly announce that the company has incorporated the very first all new Kohler Premier Showroom into its new and enlarged A & D Building showroom. Our Showroom of the Year award is for the 3,600 sq. ft. of space described in the article above. The all-new Kohler Premier Showroom more than doubles the size of the showroom and was opened to the public on Nov. 16, 2009.

The shared reception area is reached through a dramatically lit corridor drawing you towards the reception desk with a backdrop comprising a cut-out Davis & Warshow logo, backlit with two LCD TV monitors running water images in an endless loop.

The new Kohler Premier space is an evolution of its successful Premier Showroom program launched in 1996.  Then as now, Davis & Warshow was selected to launch the Premier program because of their longstanding commitment to Kohler and their prominent location in the heart of New York City.

“Kohler has learned so much since the launch of the Premier Program in the ’90s,” said Jim Lewis, vice president, channel marketing, Kohler Co. “From wholesaler and customer feedback, to our experience with The Kohler Store, we have come to realize that we don’t need a one-size-fits-all program. We can work together with our channel partners to create variations on a theme, respecting regional differences while staying true to the Kohler brand.”

This new approach is obvious in the new Davis & Warshow showroom. While there is no doubt this is a Kohler/Kallista dedicated space (the enormous “K” is a dead give-away!) the color palette and finishes selected by Ms. Frattini Magnusson are extended into the Kohler space and the lighting system, designed by Focus Lighting, is the same throughout.

To the left of the reception area is the Kallista space consisting of a number of vignettes and some additional faucet displays. Once past the Kallista portion, the Kohler Premier space comes into view.

The bulk of the displays are presented by product category in self-lit cabinets and display walls. The space includes a large design area, with a conference table, large LCD monitor and Internet connectivity. Design manuals and color chips are stored close at hand.

The space continues Kohler’s push at the forefront of showroom design and rewards participating partners with a space that looks great and is designed to help the sales process.

I’ll be keeping an eye out as Kohler continues to roll this new program out across the country to see just how the regional differences are incorporated, and I’ll be speaking to wholesalers to see if the space meets Kohler’s lofty goals.