BUFFALO GROVE, ILL. — Paris, London, Scottsdale, Ariz. Scottsdale? “Inspiration comes from many places,” says Michelle Henderson, showroom manager, Banner Plumbing Supply. Henderson has traveled the world visiting showrooms, trade shows and model homes, drawing inspiration from each unique experience to apply to the state-of-the-art showroom in Chicago’s north suburb.
Showroom design takes a blend of creativity and application to make plumbing showrooms effective. Banner Supply takes pride in just that—bringing the latest decorative styles and kitchen and bathroom trends to market. “I try to stay on top of the market, follow trends and stay ahead of the curve,” says Henderson.
Opened in 1946 on Chicago’s South Side by founder Charles Greenspon, Banner Plumbing Supply now boasts two locations, one in Chicago and one in the northern burbs.
Ten years ago, Banner opened its second location in Buffalo Grove, with more than 85,000-sq. ft. of warehouse space for its wholesale clients and a 15,000-sq.-ft. kitchen and bath showroom, staffed with experienced designers and support personnel. “We opened the showroom during a down economy; it gave us time to work out the bugs,” says Henderson.
And work out the bugs they have. With current owner Lee Greenspon and vice presidents Rick Meyers and Andy Chavez at the South Branch and Gene Hara in the Buffalo Grove branch, the company is definitely in great hands. From anywhere to 30-40 clients per day during the week and more than 100 sets of customers on the weekend, Banner’s Buffalo Grove showroom, for example, is equipped to bring today’s kitchens and bathrooms to visitors on any given day.
Henderson is no stranger to interior design and kitchen and bath. For more than 25 years she has been involved in kitchen and bath project management, and went to school for interior design study. Henderson was hired by Banner more than 10 years ago to transform the empty Buffalo Grove warehouse’s second floor into an open “museum-esque” showroom with LED track lighting to spotlight the latest plumbing design, trends, look and function.
Entering the building, one will notice a flurry of activity at the supply will call desk to the left of the lobby, as contractors consult with experienced counter staff, while others await their orders, readying themselves for a busy day ahead.
Exiting the elevator on the second floor, one will be immediately transformed into a world of decorative plumbing bliss, a world where plumbing supply meets that sophisticated showroom application. Featuring today’s bathroom vignettes to interactive faucets and showerheads, the showroom gives visitors a full-on experience featuring the latest in kitchen and bath trends.
“Gold is definitely back,” says Henderson, as she walks through the latest bathroom vignette, which she recently envisioned and created. Henderson takes great pride in her work and it is evident in the feel of the showroom itself. Kitchen and bath styles and aesthetics are constantly changing and evolving, and Henderson and her staff work diligently to keep on top of the latest industry trends. “It is my job to provide a look that is going to last for awhile stylistically,” says Henderson.
The showroom features working or “interactive” showerheads, toilets and kitchen and bath faucets—from manufacturers such as Hansgrohe, Toto, Brizo, American Standard and Rohl—so visitors can get up close and personal with each fixture. “It is important for customers to know how water is going to perform,” says Henderson.
With 125 employees across the two branches, Banner is very selective in who they hire, and, says Henderson, employees are the company’s best investment. “Reputation is what sets us apart from other supply houses,” says Henderson, referring to employees’ experience, technical knowledge and customer service.
The wholesale division of Banner—which relies on repeat business from plumbers and builders—works mostly with commercial contractors while the company also works with residential contractors that send their clients into the showroom. Although open to the public, Henderson stresses the importance of consulting with tradespeople and builders for professional installation.