Wisconsin-based First Supply made some history recently.
The fifth-generation, family-owned wholesaler opened the first Kohler Signature Store in the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb of Edina in May. The store is the first to be solely owned and operated by an independent wholesaler. First Supply has been a Kohler distributor for 61 years.
A grand-opening gala May 17 drew a packed house to the 3,200-sq.-ft. space.
“The First Supply family is proud, excited and humbled that the Kohler family has entrusted us to set out on this voyage,” First Supply President Joe Poehling said to the assembled crowd at the grand opening. “We believe the market will find the best part of its Kohler experience, and our most important asset, is the team that has been assembled and expertly trained in the Kohler way.”
Kohler launched the industry-first retail platform Kohler Stores in Chicago in 2005.
“What is most unique and important about this space is that we modeled the design, consultation and service model off the model we used in Chicago,” Kohler President and Chief Operating Officer David Kohler told Supply House Times at the grand opening event. “Joe Poehling has put together an incredible team here that will provide very excellent service to the local consumers in Edina.”
The space is loaded with 700 products from the Kohler, Kallista, Robern, Kohler Surfaces tile and stone, and Kohler custom vanities lines. The paneling used throughout the store was handcrafted by Rhinelander, Wis.-based Enterprise Wood Products from antique, old-growth lumber reclaimed from the historic Globe Elevators at the edge of the Duluth-Superior Harbor.
“We’ve done a lot in a small space. We pack a punch,” Kohler Director of Showroom Marketing Michelle Kilmer said at the event.
The Edina location is situated in a high-traffic area featuring many well-known higher-end retail stores. “There is a great demographic in this area and we have great co-tenants here,” Kilmer said. “You can get a lot of home-improvement tasks done in one space. We feel this is where the consumer lives and where they shop. This is the future of showrooms.”
Following the opening of First Supply’s Kohler Signature Store, Kohler plans to expand the retail store platform with distributors to the top 20 U.S. consumer markets, including locations such as Boston and Washington, D.C., by as early as this fall.
“We have other distributors that are very interested,” David Kohler said. “We will be opening more locations with our distributors across the U.S.”
VIDEO: Check out our exclusive interviews from the event with Poehling, Kilmer and David Kohler.