BENDER, a fourth-generation family-owned and -operated distributor, debuted its reimagined New Haven, Conn., showroom in late May. During its open house reveal, more than 1,100 guests toured 21,000 sq. ft. of expertly designed space and vignettes showcasing decorative plumbing, kitchen and bath cabinetry, lighting and tile.
The showroom is located in the Mill River district, which is undergoing a resurgence as New Haven works to transform the old manufacturing facilities into a new bohemian-chic district.
“It was a customer-appreciation event,” says owner Max Bender. While the outside of the building retains its simple charm, the inside surprises customers with its wow factor.
What makes the renovated showroom unique is its nod to the past and eyes on the future.
Constructed in 1889 as a grain warehouse, BENDER (www.bendershowrooms.com) transformed the space in 1991 into a showroom and warehouse. After years of success, it was time to update the space. To set it apart from competitor showrooms, the distributor reimagined the area as a state-of-the-art showroom yet still showcasing the craftsmanship of the building’s original character.
To keep the charm of the old building, the loft-like open feel of the space provides for a nice flow to the showroom. The original exposed brick walls serve as a neutral backdrop and the textured ceiling has the imprint of the old wood beams, a nod to the old and the new.
The Bender showroom model started in the company’s Norwalk, Conn., location and perfected in New Haven. To maximize the customer experience, the showroom sells kitchen, bathing, lighting, tile, stone, plumbing and HVAC — focusing on the high-end, “attainable-luxury” items, Max Bender notes. The company sells Kohler and carries other high-end brands such as Franke, Gessi, and Franz Viegner.
“It’s house jewelry — all the decorative products under one roof,” he says. “From the knob to the cabinet to the light bulb to the sconce to the tile and stone; we have everything except appliances,” said Max. With more than 600 faucets, numerous interactive displays (steam shower anyone?), and 23 kitchen vignettes, it is easy to see how the location has become a destination.
What makes this space different is the merchandising. Owners David Bender and son Max note that the New Haven showroom is the second location where the staff designed the merchanding.
“In a conventional showroom, everything is merchandised differently — it’s a hodgepodge,” Max Bender explains. “It doesn’t stir creativity, it doesn’t help you visualize or appreciate the beauty. The new showroom’s clean, sleek lines on all-clear acrylic pods with the faucet bottoms cropped off makes it easy for a customer to visualize putting together products.”
He credits his father for wanting to make a more interactive experience; customers can take a faucet and set it down on various sample countertops to see how the two elements work together
“Customers can see it come to life, which provides a better customer experience,” David Bender explains.
A home construction or remodeling can be overwhelming. Some customers like the experience of taking time to select individual components, while others want to walk in, see a vignette and purchase it as is. To help with visualization, six Kohler vignettes are installed on the right — each designed for clients to imagine different wall textures, bathroom lighting and color.
The BENDER showroom philosophy believes in marrying function, budget, design and customer convenience. By providing all product in one room, the showroom design maximizes customers time.
“There’s something for everyone,” Max Bender says “The brands support us, and we support their products. We provide top-shelf customer service and can help create a beautiful space at any budget. We provide obtainable luxury.