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Barri Leiner Grant | Photo: Eric Rademacher with Fig Media | April 11, 2014
A design destination blossoms in Oak Brook, but be ready to experience an appliance showroom like none other.
You’ve been beckoned to the ’burbs on a Friday evening during rush hour, so you know it’s got to be good. An intimate list of industry insiders, including designers, architects and style-makers, has been gathered. A behind-the-scenes tour has been arranged with the CEO. And a sumptuous dinner spread has been laid before us. All in the center of Pirch, a new 30,000-square-foot kitchen and bath showroom, soon to open its doors at Oakbrook Center.
It’s also a “fete-together” in the name of Brit hit designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard. He has a new book, Live, Love & Decorate, and—between divine licensing agreements for fabric, flooring, tile and a new jewelry line, not to mention design assignments in Istanbul, France and the Chateau Gutsch in Switzerland—he is also the Pirch brand ambassador.
Enticing? It’s like arriving at the Oscars of appliances. Visitors embark upon the grand escalator, greeted by gleaming cream 24-by-24-inch staggered porcelain tiles and an expanse of best-in-category kitchen, bath and laundry vignettes. Every high-end name in the business is here: Molten, Evo, Gaggenau, Thermador, Mr. Steam, BainUltra, et cetera. The eye darts from a stunning SieMatic bedecked midcentury kitchen installation and drop dead orange Bertazzoni range to a dream bath sporting the latest in Duravit, Gessi and Waterworks. Is that a La Cornue rotisserie oven spinning at the back of the store? Yes, yes, it is.
A state-of-the-art La Marzocco coffee machine, handmade in Florence, is manned at Bliss Café, where baristas greet the select group of deluxe diners with a drink of choice. During public hours, every guest that enters the store’s doors gets something to gulp—up to 10,000 visitors weekly. The company’s core philosophy, “Live joyfully,” along with this pleasant gift of nourishment, set the tone for the way Pirch entertains their business model. The hi-touch sensory experience is the genius of CEO Jeffrey R. Sears (formerly of Creative Touch Interiors, which he sold to Home Depot) and founder and VP of Sales Jim Stuart.
The concept for the Chicago store (the fifth location in the U.S. for the California-based company) was conceived in 2009 by the two gentlemen, who saw that the industry had lost its way. “We believe in creating experiences and memories in the home, not simply the sale,” shares Sears as he leads guests on a store tour.
“I’ve never been to Oak Brook or the mall,” exclaims interior designer Alessandra Branca as she enters the space. “I can’t believe what’s going on here!” Sears knows he has captured the attention of an industry leader who has never entertained working this way. “But, how are you making money?” she asks, reacting to the laundry list (pun intended) of services he offers for each washer-dryer, stovetop and bathtub, including installation, training, extended warranties and—for those interested in kitchen appliances—private cooking classes with one of the full-time, in-store chefs that customers can reserve as they please. “I believe the currency these days is ‘status skills,’” shares Sears. “People want to know how to do things.”
Pirch’s “try before you buy” MO is one that must be experienced in person to be completely understood. The company has been built to sell you more than a sink; the end-to-end experience begins with the touch. Everything works. See a shower you like? Simply book the Sanctuary, the store’s spa room for an evening, and indulge privately in the showerhead and fixtures of your choice.
The evening’s attendees gather in Ghost chairs around a fresh assortment of celadon glass and china mixed with bamboo-handled flatware. Catering by Entertaining Company is impeccable, from the artfully crafted bread basket and herb butters to the beef Wellington entree and lemon buttermilk dessert. There is even a custom, chartreuse-colored gin bitter lemon cocktail being served, inspired by the crisp and white West Coast-inspired surroundings.
“There are things here I’ve never seen,” Bullard shares with the crowd. One of the most exciting aspects is the styling of each impeccable display. The firm plucked Duane Jeffers of Chicago’s own Neiman Marcus fame to trick out the Live Joyfully Boutique. Everything from candles to photo frames and coffee-table books is enviable, including the gold and silver kitchen sponges dotting every sink.
The evening finally comes to an end for the duly-impressed city-bound, and the store is ready to opens its doors to an unexpecting public. Be ready to be inspired.