Stretching from Detroit to Pontiac, Michigan, and cutting through numerous suburbs, historic Woodward Avenue has served as mecca for classic car enthusiasts and cruisers for decades.
On March 13, First Supply became a part of that history when it opened its fourth Kohler Signature Store on Old Woodward Avenue in downtown Birmingham.
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Tucked into the north end of the affluent city’s shopping district, the store will serve not just the discerning tastes of the immediate area’s affluent clientele, but also the widely varying market that comprises a city in the middle of a renaissance.
“Detroit is going through a rebirth,” Birmingham Kohler Signature Store Manager Nathan Caspers said. “It’s known in the international community as a phoenix rising from the ashes. We really found the market here is demanding and really looking for something a little bit different.”
“This is the largest market that we have gone into, so we’re excited for the new adventure,” First Supply Chairman and CEO Joe Poehling said. “We’re very excited about the demographics of this market. Detroit is such an up-and-coming and cool new place.”
A family affair
Poehling is part of First Supply’s five generations of family ownership, and the roots of his family’s partnership with Kohler run deep.
“Our relationship with Kohler started in 1897,” he said. “You’ll see on our timeline that we have a letter from David [Kohler]’s great-grandfather to my great-grandfather that dates back into the 1890s, which is pretty exciting to have and to continue on through all these years.”
“First Supply is one of the premier suppliers of Kohler products in the U.S.,” Caspers said. “They and Kohler have been working together for more than 120 years. Kohler envisioned a new store opening in downtown Birmingham and decided to select First Supply, being their premiere partner to assist in opening and running the store.”
First Supply is rooted in the same values as the Detroit market, Caspers said. Kohler and First Supply agreed on Detroit because of the city’s desire for renovation and expansion.
“This is the fourth store,” said Lorraine Herr, sales and marketing director for Kohler Signature Stores by First Supply. “Kohler actually opened the first Signature Store back in 2012 in Edina, Minnesota. Now, we’re opening the fourth Kohler Signature Store in Detroit.”
Another reason Kohler and First Supply chose the Detroit market is because of the larger metropolitan service area.
“We’ve done the research,” Herr said. “We know the people who love our brands are here, and their projects are here.”
The Kohler experience
Kohler Signature Stores are designed to help people identify their style through hands-on experiences with a wide array of products, Herr said.
“It helps us to identify where their preferences are so we can guide them through the rest of the store in a way that aligns with what they like,” she says. “The store is meant for people to use it and touch it. We want them to sit in the bathtubs, turn on the faucets, open the vanities and cabinet doors, and see what’s inside and how it feels to them.”
“There’s a little bit of everything in this store for every consumer,” Caspers added.
The store also has exclusive items that aren’t available elsewhere, and First Supply’s preferred partnership with Kohler ensures product is quickly available.
Poehling said the store is a great fit for the Detroit metro area.
“Michigan is a very important part of our market, and it’s very similar to the other markets we’re in,” Poehling said. “It’s such an exciting market.”
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