WATERLOO, IA —
The renovation and revitalization of the downtown area is well under way, and Classic Kitchen and Bath is settling into its new home there: a 115-year-old building with exposed brick walls and original tin ceilings that stand about 15 ft. high. While the interior setting is 19th century authentic, the outside setting is surprising. “You wouldn’t expect to walk into this space in Waterloo, IA,” comments Tina Fisher, designer for Classic Kitchen and Bath. “But, that’s where we are.”
So the firm – which specializes in making over kitchens and baths in the city and surrounding areas within a 60-mile radius – finds itself at the center of the renovation of the Haffa Building, one of the city’s historic buildings. The renovation is part of a restoration project that includes the adjacent Fowler Mercantile building, which is contributing to the rebirth of Waterloo’s downtown area.
Melissa McKean, owner of Classic Kitchen and Bath, made the investment in the space because she believes in the area’s renaissance. And, since first beginning the renovation in May 2005, her business has doubled, offering reassurance that the move was the right one.
“It’s an area that’s starting to come back to what it used to be,” states Fisher. While there were many vacancies in the neighborhood a year ago, she notes that most spaces are now occupied.
“There are some new shops opening, and there are some great new restaurants and bars in the neighborhood,” she adds.
One of those restaurants, CU Restaurant, is partnering with Classic Kitchen and Bath to offer cooking classes for area residents to help spark interest in the showroom. In addition, Evan Kaiulani Fine Art and Framing, an upscale art gallery that also exhibits the work of local artists, has developed a synergy with the showroom, as well.
“We’re actually attached to the art gallery, sharing the same building,” notes Fisher. “There’s an open doorway in the middle of our showroom that goes into their place, so the spaces are really congruent.”
Three’s a Charm
At the showroom’s grand opening event earlier this year, a restaurant chef prepared appetizers in the front kitchen as party guests mingled among the displays.
“People could actually watch him preparing the food,” comments Fisher. Approximately 200 friends, family, clients, prospective clients and people in the community celebrated the opening.
The move to the Haffa Building has tripled the company’s store space to 7,000 sq. ft., which spans three levels. The main level features kitchen vignettes, acting as a showcase for the cabinets and countertops the showroom offers. Downstairs includes bath vignettes, as well as tile and hardwood flooring selections. The upper level comprises the company’s offices.
Sherri Kayser, senior designer for Classic Kitchen and Bath, spearheaded the design of the showroom, which was completed by the three full-time and several part-time designers on staff. Input was also received from Wood-Mode Cabinetry and Omega Cabinetry, the two cabinet lines that the showroom features.
Nine kitchen vignettes are showcased on the main level, along with hutches and other amenities. Each vignette highlights one or two different countertops, including DuPont Zodiaq and Corian and granite, the firm’s major offerings.
“We have vignettes that feature cabinets in maple, cherry, pecan and oak – alone and with MDF,” offers Fisher.
The most popular woods sold are maple and cherry, in a variety of different styles, including Old World European, Arts and Crafts and Shaker.
“Most people are doing a five-piece, flat-panel door. That’s pretty much the trend around here,” she notes.
Still, the showroom includes a very contemporary display to attract the growing number of customers seeking out newer, less traditional ideas.
“The vignette features a bright red countertop and stainless steel cabinetry from Omega Cabinetry, along with some interesting pendant lighting,” Fisher remarks.
“There are a lot of loft projects and things going on downtown and, especially because we are located downtown, it’s kind of neat to have a display like that,” Fisher adds.
The working kitchen in the front of the showroom is more traditional and features cabinets from Wood-Mode Cabinetry and a huge granite-topped island. State-of-the-art appliances are used in this display for the cooking classes. Most of the appliances throughout the showroom are from KitchenAid, though the showroom itself does not sell appliances. Blanco sinks and faucets are located throughout the space.
“We also have a selection of lighting incorporated into our displays, and we help our clients with their choices in this area,” comments Fisher. “That’s a recent addition to our business.”
Upstairs and Down
On the lower level, nine bath vignettes showcase the company’s countertop offerings and vanity choices from Omega Cabinetry and Birch Bath Furniture. A significant tile selection and a range of hardwood choices are also highlighted here.
“We carry a wide variety of tile lines, and we try to show what can be done with backsplashes,” comments Fisher, “because we really enjoy the design work involved with backsplashes. We have a lot of fun [using] unique trim pieces and other items.”
Fisher notes that the showroom incorporates backsplashes into every single display, whether it’s a kitchen or bath, “and the backsplash always coordinates with the countertop and cabinets. The cabinets are the anchor of our displays, and then we choose the countertops, backsplashes and the floor,” she reports. Flooring choices include engineered hardwood, as well as porcelain tile, and tile that mimics slate and stone.
While the upper level of the showroom encompasses the company’s offices, customers are occasionally brought there for a look.
“We sell a line of closets and organizational products, and the desks in our offices are made out of the components,” explains Fisher. “So, if we are looking to do a desk or a home office, we bring clients up.”
Fisher notes that the main floor of the showroom also features closets. “We have a closet display similar to a laundry area, a master bedroom closet and a locker area similar to what you might use in a mudroom. It’s a modular closet line that comes in different finishes. We added it recently, and it has really done well for us.”
Cooking and More
Kitchen demonstrations and cooking classes are offered on a regular basis in the front kitchen, courtesy of the CU restaurant staff.
“We will be working with two outside chefs pretty closely for the next few months, and we’ll see how it goes,” states Fisher. “Right now we’re working very closely with a Turkish chef, so several of our classes reflect the food she prepares, such as Asian, Indian and Italian.”
In addition to local television advertising, the showroom is setting itself up as a spot for meetings and get-togethers to attract people. “We recently hosted a political campaign event, and we’re hosting a breakfast in the upcoming weeks,” offers Fisher. “We’re also open to hosting dinners for clubs and wine tastings for wine clubs.”
Whatever the need, the distinctive showroom will draw people to downtown, revitalizing the neighborhood and bringing new life to its age-old buildings.