Environmentally friendly furniture company Arhaus moves into KC May 22 and aims to inspire with its products and showroom.
Story by Gigi Cowell
Leawood’s newest retail sensation is poised to stage the hottest show in town when it opens its doors at Town Center Plaza May 22. With more than 17,000 square feet of showroom floor, Arhaus, a Midwest-grown purveyor of handcrafted, luxury furniture, is not only committed to capturing the hearts of Kansas City, but is dedicated to furnishing a better world—one customer at a time.
When Arhaus Chairman and CEO John Reed launched the company in Ohio with his father 27 years ago, the two had a dream of providing beautiful furnishings that were handmade by artisans around the world. The company started with its own designs, sourcing the materials from Denmark, Italy and Germany, which inspired Reed to invent the Arhaus company name. Arhaus continues this family dream today, controlling the quality of their furniture by engaging the best artisan manufacturers from around the globe to help bring their unique designs to life.
Gary Babcock, Arhaus’s chief creative officer, has a razor-sharp understanding of what customers want in terms of lifestyle design, quality and beauty, and a passion for visual merchandising that is hard to match in the industry. He heads up a group of talented buyers and designers, and is involved in everything—from the original inception to development, construction and eventually how the pieces are displayed in Arhaus stores.
“Retail is theater, and our showroom is our stage,” Babcock says. “I have always believed in that idea, and that’s what made me fall in love with this company from the very beginning.”
Arhaus creates and showcases its furnishings with a specific target customer in mind. That focus drives the creativity of every employee who is part of the design and development process.
“We build our furniture for the person who is fashion-forward, and has a high sense of design and style,” Babcock says. “Someone who really wants to put together a room that will not only be beautiful, but that they will love living in.”
And customers absolutely love Babcock’s flair for creating unique and sometimes jaw-dropping displays that are a signature of the Arhaus brand. The individual furniture vignettes are trendy and exciting, speaking to customers who enjoy shopping for design ideas. The eclectic styles, rustic points of view and mix of fabrics and colors are meant to closely mirror the way people live today—something that more traditional and modern showrooms often lack.
“We like to think of Arhaus as a design and inspiration place, and because of that, we are always making dramatic changes to the way that our showrooms look,” Babcock says. “We consider our stores a place of inspiration, so we don’t just make seasonal changes, but strive to change the look—sometimes as often as every single week. We routinely change the color of the walls, and we only use fresh flowers in our table top displays, which really makes people take notice of the beautifully made furniture.”
So who is the typical Arhaus customer?
“Some people come into our store on a regular basis to get new ideas, and then purchase pieces that they put together in their own unique way,” Babcock says. “And many fall in love with an entire setting and buy it all.”
As a result of designers and buyers who travel the globe searching for inspiration, customers can be assured that the “one-of-a-kind” pieces at Arhaus won’t be found anywhere else.
From the very beginning, Arhaus has been committed to maintaining the earth’s resources, and in 1986 it proved this by instituting the company’s Rainforest Policy, which was originally the result of the decision to ban pieces made of wood harvested from the world’s endangered rainforests. This dedication to the environment has evolved over the years to include sourcing wood only from vendors who actively practice sustainability.
“John and I have always believed in saving the environment as much as we can. All of our wood must be certified that it is ecologically harvested and grown only as a wood commodity,” says Babcock. “In fact, a lot of the wood we love to use is from Northern Italy, where there are groves and groves of birch and tulip poplar trees that are grown specifically for furniture making.”
The company’s artisan partners also utilize recycled materials whenever possible. Recycled copper and metals are brought to life by inlaying into tabletops, and some decorative items are hand-blown with recycled glass from a partner factory in Mexico.