When I first decided to participate in writing a blog, I was a little concerned I would have trouble finding things to talk about. So far, it has all fallen in my lap. At Room and Board we stay in close connection with other aspects of our business so that the customer experience is as good as can be. We are the Flagship Store and in close proximity to our Corporate Headquarters.
Today, we had a meeting with two of our Associates from our Service Department. When we communicate with other departments about what our jobs looks like and what some of our obstacles are, we end up being amazing collaborators. We know how to help each other find the best possible solutions for great customer service. These meetings connect us as a team and show us the depth of our given responsibilities. We can put the name with the face and suddenly it becomes personal.
We try to have these meetings with our partners at Corporate often. Soon we will meet with the Web team to understand what is entailed with the future changes coming. We have hosted our Delivery team, Shop from Home, Merchandise Quality, Vendor Managers and the Accessory Team. It all creates an atmosphere of openness, collaboration and tremendous team effort.
I have a Paul McCobb coffee table I triumphantly scored on Craigslist. It’s made of formica. A humble material, yes, but I love this coffee table. It is quietly dignified in its simple form and utter functionality. But more than that, I love that this piece is imbued with a history. It belongs to a larger context of middle 20th century designers – and more specifically, Chicago designers. And now it has pride of place in the center of my Chicago home. The intersection of history and design and context adds so much depth to my space. It enriches the most mundane of activities that take place on and around this little formica table.
Walking the Room & Board showroom can be like strolling the pages of Architectural Digest. Even now, I’m a little star-struck by the all the Eames chairs and Noguchi cocktail tables around here. We’re not designer-heavy, but we do have a well edited assortment of iconic design that perfectly punctuates our handcrafted, classic modern assortment. All of our pieces have the strength of integrity, whether they are rooted in the history of our collective design memory, or waiting to absorb the vibrations of our personal histories-in-the-making — these pieces will become heirlooms.
Today our store hosted 16 high school students who are very interested in a career in the Design world. I was the person who showed them around the store trying to emphasize our approach to our showroom design. I showed them how we mix elements in our room settings to create a more beautiful and sometimes dramatic effect. I pointed out wood, metal, leather, sheepskin, cowhide and fabric to create a multi-dimensional effect. I talked about the Modern Classics and their influence on contemporary design in our stores. They seemed to be overwhelmingly drawn to Mid-Century modern frames in our room settings.
I enjoyed their well thought out questions and could tell they may have been at Ikea right before coming here. They wondered if our furniture was flat-packed and where they were manufactured. That opened the door for me to talk about our philosophy of collaboration with our vendors and our American made story. I really enjoy training new employees and doing this kind of tour because I have the opportunity to paint the best possible portrait pf who we are as a company. I love being an Ambassador for Room and Board.
Anyone who has lived in this neighborhood for more than three years can tell you how much things have changed–and keep changing. Our “hood” has gone from a place to avoid to the most hip, happening place to be in DC. From the balcony, we recently counted some 16 cranes in the near and far distance. Between now and 2015, the city will be adding over 1966 total residential units and scads of retail space within a half mile radius of our store. All of those units need to be furnished, and you can bet we are going to be the merchant of choice!
I like to think that Room & Board was a real boom to development in this part of town. We are not “big box” by any means, but we were the largest national store ever to set up shop here. Our presence created an anchor for what can only be described as phenomenal growth. We, here in the store, are already reaping the benefits of this burgeoning part of town. Come work here, and this is just a sampling of what you can enjoy within two blocks of our showroom:
New restaurants: Matchbox; Le Diplomate–open, we hear, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; Ted’s Bulletin; and M Cafe. Tacqueria Nacional just opened directly across narrow T Street. (Our staff has been treated to some free tacos and quesadillas.) Bakehouse bakery and coffee shop is slated to open across from us on May 16. And coming in 2014: Trader Joe’s, just one block away! If just thinking of all this packs on some pounds, we’re also getting a brand new YMCA.
Every year we sponsor a program for the students at The Minneapolis College of Art and Design. We ask the design students to create something for us with a particular function. In the passed it has been a sleeper sofa, a media piece, a storage piece, lighting, etc. This year we asked them to design something that could hide all of our unslightly cords from view. There were 13 presentations and 5 finalists. We displayed the 5 winning examples to present to our customers so they could vote on their favorite prototype. We left the examples on the showroom for a couple of weeks to encourage the voting.
This week we did an event to present the winner a $1,500.00 prize for their efforts. Ultimately, Room and Board would like to create a product from the winners design to sell in our stores. This is a great program to encourage young people to create designs that could be used in an existing market.
Who doesn’t love a good referral? It’s pure fun when you’ve helped someone design a room (or a whole house), and their admiring friends then come seeking you out. When the DC store first opened, I worked with a great young couple–a pair of Washington movers and shakers–to help them design a downtown condo. A few weeks after their delivery, some friends of theirs came in–also young, hip, and, politically connected–and we did several rooms in their home. After that, every couple of months, another one “generation” of the original customers came in, until we had reached six “generations.” And then, just yesterday, a seventh couple came by, referred by that very first couple way back when, and we are happily planning three rooms in their first house. Love it!
One of the perks of my job is working in a gorgeous showroom. “Come in. Be inspired” is the tag line on our window, and I’m lucky to be immersed in that inspiration daily. If you haven’t shopped in Room & Board before, you might be surprised by our layout. We don’t group like products together, but rather create beautiful room settings throughout the showroom. Every room is accessorized and layered with artwork, coffee table books, pillows and fresh flowers. Shopping here is like meandering through a well-appointed (and very large) home. An essential component to my job is helping my clients visualize how our pieces can work together in their homes — and I can’t imagine a better way of doing that, than walking our floor!