AMERICANEYE

Interview with Ken Berry of AmericanEYE

PHOTOS BY KIP DAWKINS

When did you open your store?
KB: AmericanEYE first opened in August of 2003.
How did you get started in the business?
KB: I started part-time as the telex operator for Jack Lenor Larsen’s showroom at the Design center in 1983. After college, I moved to Washington DC to see what I was going to do with a degree in History and French…who knew a help-wanted ad was going to set me on this path…
What do you love about owning the shop?
KB: We just moved to our new location as part of relocating the entire Washington Design Center, so first, I love that the move for us is OVER! But most importantly, I love being able to go into a place that I love being in every day. As a to-the-trade showroom, we work exclusively with designers and architects, so they challenge us every day to stay ahead of the curve in the Market. We have a great team in the showroom that I also enjoy working with, great personalities in all six ladies. We have terrific vendors, some that I’ve had the privilege to work with for more years that we’d like to admit!

“One of the most challenging aspects of the business is finding a happy medium between acknowledging trends, but not being a slave to them. Staying ahead of the curve with new and different, but not allowing the classics to be forgotten in the mix. Working with designers to make sure they are comfortable with and understanding our processes, so they can keep their clients appraised of what is happening with orders, deliveries, and the like.”

 

-KEN ON THE CHALLENGING ASPECTS OF THE DESIGN WORLD

What is your favorite entertaining or design tip?
KB: For a design tip, I’d say don’t do matchie-matchie. It looks fake. Build a room or a house that looks evolved, it will feel more natural and comfortable. And we all want to be comfortable in our home.
As far as entertaining goes, hire a caterer…let the people that are good at what they do, do their job. It will free you up to entertain!
Do you have any favorite pieces in the store right now?
KB: Yes! New lamps from Charlie West that are produced by Charlie in the most amazing glazes. Beautiful new consoles from Bennett Discoveries. Our new Brown Jordan outdoor kitchen display, new upholstery from Lee Industries, with the new 3232-01S swivel chair at the top of the list, new Stewart Furniture sofas that are new to the DC Market, getting an amazing reaction….Oh, and the American Leather power recliners!
What is something you have learned in the business that you didn’t expect?
KB: Just how valuable good furniture can be, to make your home a HOME that will stand the tests of time.
What items are your best sellers?
KB: Right now, we are ordering a lot of swivel chairs!
What inspires you?
KB: Nature. Animals. Slowing down and taking a step back, realizing what’s really important-my husband and our cats.
About their team?
Everyone in the showroom is there for the same reason; we all love what we do. Is it work-yes. Some days, really hard work. One lesson my father taught me was to find something you love to do, because you’re going to be doing it for a long time. In an industry known for staff turn-over, we really don’t have much.
What is the importance of customer service?
KB: HUGE! CRUCIAL!
What results you have seen from going the extra mile for your customers or employees?
KB: Having been in this business for a long time, great customer service is the lynch-pin for success. Working for other people, I’ve watched business relationships end over MINOR differences. This was one thing I resolved not to do when we opened. Settle the problems, don’t let them grow, and move on. We try to keep our clients informed every step of the way on their orders, so “surprises” are the happy kind. When issues come up, we extend ourselves to come to the best result for all parties, and our vendors support us.
What sets your business apart from online shopping?
KB: Easy. You can see and feel product on our floor, and get educated and guided for the best results for any project, working through a designer.
Do you have a favorite customer story?
KB: After over thirty years in this business, I STILL remember having to tell a designer that his fabric was going to be delayed; an elephant ran into the jungle with his order in its back….things happen….
Are there any restaurants or shops in the area that you like to visit?
KB: We are new to the neighborhood, so still exploring, but….I hear that Le Diplomate on 14th Street is the place to go. I hope to make it there very soon!
“The new location for AmericanEye and the other showrooms at the Washington Design Center is an amazing new chapter for all of us. We are going to be more visible for end-users, so designers should be busier than ever, which means we’ll be busier than ever….!”
avatar-defaultAMERICANEYE
Washington, DC
(202)554-5744

AmericanEye is a leading showroom at the Washington Design Center. We work with a large client base of Interior Designers and Architects. Consumers are welcome for browsing, and we are happy to facilitate an introduction to a designer for any purchases.