Opening of Immerse showroom highlights company’s 75th anniversary. 

Leigh Suffian at Atlas Supply’s first off-site showroom, Immerse.

After 75 years in the plumbing wholesale industry, St. Louis-basedAtlas Supplycould’ve just patted itself on the back. Instead, the third-generation company opened its first showroom,Immerse, and has made big strides in the St. Louis market. PartnerLeigh Suffianrecently talked to Supply House Times about Atlas’ history and its future with Immerse.

Supply House Times: What made 2012 the right time to get into the showroom business?

LS:We’ve been in the residential business for a long time and we sold a lot of these products, but we’ve never had an off-site showroom. Really, our vendors and our customers have wanted us to do this for awhile. With their desire for us to do this escalating, and with plumbing product trends becoming more of a fashion item, it just seemed like this trend was going to keep going up and up. It was really time for us to comply.

Supply House Times: Did you seek out any advice during the planning and building of Immerse?

LS:We did because we’re a trade showroom. While the public can come in and look - and we do encourage that - they can’t buy here. Their plumber, contractor, designer or trade professional has to do the actual purchasing. It was really important for us to find out what our customers wanted to see here.

Immerse features a working shower column where customers can see the style and performance of various showerheads.

Supply House Times: Why does Atlas believe that baths and kitchens have become the showcase for the house over the last few years?

LS:Because our lives have gotten so hectic, especially with women not only managing the household but working it seems like the bathroom used to be the place just to hide a toilet. Now we showcase them; they’ve become these havens for people to go and relax; to have and have a sacred place and get some alone time. Now they’ve become these serene, beautiful places to show off. Along with that, they’ve become these design-focused places in the home.

Supply House Times: What were some of the biggest challenges in creating Immerse?

LS:The biggest challenge was really one we faced internally. It was a slow process. Even within our own company people were looking at myself and our manager and were wondering “What’s taking so long?” They didn’t see a lot of progress. We really planned everything before we got going. We did a lot of research, we travelled around the country and we looked at other showrooms. We really planned every single piece that was going in here.

Supply House Times: What was the most satisfying thing for you when Immerse opened its doors?

LS:The reaction on people’s faces and the comments we’re getting from people when they come in here. We are consistently being compared to showrooms in the major metropolitan areas in the country; New York, Chicago and L.A. That has been the most exciting thing.  

Supply House Times: What has been the most pivotal moment in Atlas Supply's history?

LS:It was when the company first established partnerships with strong vendors and first made ties withAmerican StandardandRuudin 1965. Back in those days securing relationships with those vendors - when we were first fighting to get into business - that made us valid and put us on the map. Those were the most pivotal times because that gave Atlas a name and some strong brand recognition and really made us a major player in St. Louis.  Those decisions, those moments probably were the most crucial.

Supply House Times: In what other ways will Atlas Supply celebrate its 75th anniversary?

LS:It’s fun having this 75th anniversary and this new baby Immerse at the same time. We’re having a kickoff event for the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals on Opening Day in St. Louis. One of our vendors sells medicine cabinets that have TVs in them and they also sell big, flat-screen televisions. So we’re having this great 55-inch flat screen television in here that we’ll show the game on. In June, we’re going to have a big gala party at Immerse. We’re having a vendor day at Atlas in the fall and there will be some other things spotted throughout the year.