A little background on Thomas first, and why I think he has a unique voice in the community. He opened his first showroom in 2000, and then after several expansions, finally moved to the Design Center in 2005. Aside from being one of the youngest showroom founders, his showroom hosts some of the most interesting talent around. His eye for spotting new trends and creating careers for young designers sets him apart from his competition. He has created a business based on fine ethics and strong personal relationships, I consider him a great friend and a true inspiration. More info can be found at his website http://www.thomaslavin.com/ .
MC: Your showroom at the Pacific Design Center is unique among other reasons, because it represents several lines of products created by Interior Designers -Madeline Stuart, Michael Smith and David Dalton- to name just a few. Is this a deliberate decision?
TL: I HAVE SELECTED THE LINES TO REPRESENT BASED ON A VARIETY OF CRITERIA:
I’M GUIDED BY MY EYE AND MY GUT WHEN I FIRST CONSIDER A LINE FOR THE SHOWROOM. IF I LOVE IT, THEN I PURSUE IT
HOW IT RELATES TO THE REST OF MY SHOWROOM IS KEY; EVERY LINE THAT I REPRESENT IS OF THE HIGHEST QUALITY IN DESIGN AND MANUFACTURE
REPRESENTING WELL KNOWN DESIGNERS IN THEIR HOME TERRITORY SEEMS TO BE A SLAM DUNK FROM A BUSINESS POINT OF VIEW. OUR CUSTOMERS (DESIGNERS) AND THEIR CLIENTS VISIT THE SHOWROOM SEEKING OUT THESE LINES
MC: To someone who has never visited your showroom, how would you describe it? And to what do you attribute your success?
TL: THOMAS LAVIN IS A HIGH-END, COUTURE, HOME-FURNISHINGS SHOWROOM. OUR PRODUCT RANGES FROM CONTEMPORARY AND TRANSITIONAL TO TRADITIONAL
I AM IN A SERVICE BUSINESS AND WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT MY CUSTOMERS AND VENDORS ALIKE ARE WELL CARED FOR. DESIGNERS CAN BUY CHAIRS AND FABRIC FROM ANYONE; BUT I ACTUALLY CARE AND I THINK THEY GET THAT
MC: With the rise of the Internet, consumers have more and more access to information and product, previously the domain of only Designers. As a trade only vendor, how do you deal with this, and how do you see your business changing as this trend continues?
TL: MY EXPERIENCE IS THAT WHEN THE CONSUMER IS AT THE LEVEL OF APPRECIATING AND AFFORDING MY PRODUCT, THEY HAVE AN INTERIOR DESIGNER. THEY MAY RESEARCH OR PRE-SHOP, BUT THEY HAVE THEIR DESIGNER GET IN TOUCH WITH US DIRECTLY ON THEIR BEHALF.
MY BUSINESS SEEMS TO INCREASE WITH CONSUMER AWARENESS; IT SEEMS THAT DESIGNERS AND THEIR CLIENTS WORK IN A MORE COLLABORATIVE WAY THAN IN PREVIOUS DECADES.
OUR CUSTOMERS, THE DESIGNERS, ARE REALLY BUSY, SO SOMETHING IS WORKING
MC:When you decided to open your own space, what was the void that you were hoping to fill?
TL: FIRST AND FOREMOST, MY SHOWROOM REPRESENTS A VARIETY OF LINES, SOME COUTURE AND ACCESSIBLE ON A LIMITED BASIS, AND OTHERS THAT WANT TO BE IN A SHOWROOM WHERE THEIR LINE WILL SHINE AND NOT JUST BE CRAMMED INTO A CORNER. WHEN I OPENED, I WANTED A DESTINATION WHERE DESIGNERS COULD SHOP AND RECEIVE SERVICE FROM (ME, THE OWNER). I WAS, AND REMAIN, ACCESSIBLE. I WANTED TO OFFER A PLACE WHERE CUSTOMERS ARE WARMLY GREETED AND TAKEN CARE OF. THERE ARE MANY SHOWROOMS WHERE DESIGNERS FEEL PUT OFF BY STAFF THAT THINKS THEY KNOW IT ALL. THAT IS REALLY TEDIOUS.
MC: As someone whose reputation is built on staying one step ahead of the trends, what do you forecast we will be seeing in the next year or so?
TL: AT THIS SEGMENT OF THE MARKET, I SEE THE RARE AND LUXURIOUS CONTINUE TO INCREASE IN SALES. THERE ARE A RANGE OF STYLES THAT PEOPLE PURCHASE; THE ECLECTIC IS HIGHLY SOUGHT AFTER. IT IS TRULY AN FASCINATING TIME.
MC: Over the last couple of years your business has continued to flourish, as many around you have faltered. How have you bucked this trend?
TL: AGAIN, I HOPE IT IS A PERSONAL LEVEL OF SERVICE THAT I AND MY STAFF OFFER. ADDITIONALLY, WE ARE PRO-ACTIVE IN OUR MARKETING EFFORTS. WE HOST EVENTS, SEND OUT DIRECT MAIL, AND CHECK IN WITH OUR CUSTOMERS BY PHONE. WE WORK HARD. I WANT TO SELL NOT ONLY THE BED, BUT ALSO THE MATTRESS, BOX SPRINGS, NIGHT STANDS, TABLE LAMPS, SHEETS, AND ACCESSORIES.
MC: Imagine we were looking forward to the 20th anniversary of Thomas Lavin, what would you have liked to have achieved?
TL: THAT I RETAIN THE SAME PASSION FOR THE INDUSTRY AND MY BUSINESS WHICH FUELS ME TODAY.