Someone once said that the greatest pick up line of all time is “Hello.” True isn’t it? That first step toward communication is so difficult and yet can be so rewarding. Although today, as people look up less and less from digital devices to even say hello, we are on the verge of losing the art of conversation.
An article in the New York Times recently was titled “The Flight from Conversation” and talked about how we now take “sips” of conversation online. Face-to-face conversation has become intimidating. “In conversation,” the writer says, “We are called upon to see things from another’s point of view. Face-to-face conversations unfold slowly. It teaches patience.”
There is hope, of course. At the annual tea party held by Eddie Zaratsian, owner of tic-tock Couture Floral, I noticed that everyone was patiently discovering one another. Not a tweet nor a Facebook post went out until after the event. Everyone was engaged in the moment of being. The fact that I even noticed that no one was tweeting is perhaps more telling than anything.
Moving through the crowd that evening was Harwood “Woodie” Hamilton. If there is a flight from conversation going on in the world today, Hamilton hasn’t heard about it. With the personality of a “connector,” communication is his stock in trade.
An ex-boxer who has parlayed a lifetime of the physical into a profession of the verbal, Hamilton now is in the business of community relations, building strategic and creative partnerships between companies and people. Person-to-person is his first line of communication followed by a phone call, then email. For more networking lessons from this natural-born communicator see my blog post of May 8.
At that same event, which was held at the Beverly Hills Restoration Hardware in the heart of Los Angeles’ interior design neighborhood, I discovered something else – a trend toward larger companies thinking smaller, looking for a way to connect with individuals and specific markets.
Restoration Hardware no doubt was thinking community when it teamed with Zaratsian to create a line of seasonal retail floral pieces and containers available only from that location. And it was thinking that same thing when, in its new catalog it stated “We heard you. One size doesn’t fit all. So for those of you who choose to live in smaller yet no less stylish environs, we’ve scaled down our entire collection to offer sizes that work.”
Although not as “big” as Restoration Hardware, Town & Country Event Rentals in Los Angeles is certainly a large rental firm. Its warehouse and showroom is now 120,000 square feet, and owner Richard LoGuercio employs a small army to not only build new inventory, but also to maintain it.
But Los Angeles has become a series of separate regions cut off from one another at times by debilitating traffic, as well as lifestyles and aesthetics. Not everyone can, or wants to, get to the Van Nuys showroom. Its sprawling nature, so perfect for that community, might not emotionally connect with the client from Pasadena, an upscale area with many tony weddings and at-home events.
What does connect is the showroom Town & Country opened there in June 2011. And this May, LoGuercio opened another showroom in Santa Barbara, a geographically opposite and yet economically similar area.
Like Restoration Hardware, Town & Country heard its clientele. The Town & Country Pasadena showroom is housed in a beautiful old brick building. Situated on a major thoroughfare, it invites visitors in with large windows, shutter doors, awnings and flower boxes. Inside it has high, exposed-beam ceilings and is packed to the gills with beautiful vignettes so visitors bump into a new look at every turn.
And to complete the community attachment, Kelly Dunn and Marilyn Bednar, the two design consultants who oversee the showroom and attend to this clientele, are not from the rental industry, but lifelong residents of the area who were involved in many aspects of it. For more on how they design and market the showroom, see my blog post of April 24.
They may have taken different avenues to get there, but both Restoration Hardware and Town & Country have discovered at least one of the secrets to making an emotional connection with a client that truly is about lifestyle. In the process of thinking smaller, no doubt each will grow larger.
Liese Gardner is editorial director of Event Solutions magazine and an industry consultant.
She also writes the blog, Fuel: Passions That Drive Us.