In our new monthly feature called “Tips from a Retail Star” we hear from Chicago design trade showroom owner and a 2023 ARTS Award winner Kenneth Ludwig. A 2021 building flood prompted Ludwig to take the plunge last summer and move his eponymous store one block west within Chicago’s vibrant Roscoe Village neighborhood. Now ensconced in a two-floor space in a former hair salon, Ludwig, who has a business partner and a showroom manager, says the move paid off — in more ways than one — sooner than he expected.
Why did you decide to expand?
With our strong and steadily growing retail business, we wanted to separate and expand our trade division from retail. We were using a lot of wall space for hanging fabrics, and about 350 square feet of floor space for a work island with wallcoverings. We were not maxing out our wall space for artwork, nor showing enough furniture groupings. So, with the additional 1,000 square feet on the lower level, we’ve achieved that goal. We now carry three original artists on the walls (along with favorites like Left Bank Art, Napa Home & Garden, Kavana and Delano Art) and have two more seating groupings featuring sofas, chairs, ottomans and small tables on the retail floor.
How did you fund the expansion?
We took from our corporate savings. We had been planning the move for almost a year. We budgeted well and saved enough to make it work seamlessly. Well, as seamless as a move can go. We went slightly over on build-out, and moving expenses ran a little more than planned.
What is your anticipated ROI?
We have seen already a daily increase of almost 25% additional per day, and a weekend increase of almost 30% in the retail section. The trade section has seen almost a 40% increase in the past four months. We had planned and budgeted needing to do 20% more to make back our investment.
What was your anticipated timeline, and did you meet it?
Yes … we’ll be on track to meet goal in the first year.
What do you like best about the new space?
The openness of the space in the retail section. The aisles are wider, we have an additional 450 square feet on this level, and the most wall space we have ever had. The trade designers are loving the private resourcing and presentation space. We’ve hosted five “Wine & Design” learning events to rave reviews.
What did you wish you had known before you started?
That moving a block west on the same street would have produced these kinds of returns. After a month we assumed it would have slowed down due to the “newness,” but we continue now in the seventh month going strong!
If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything differently?
Planned the move sooner! LOL. I also would have run a better “moving sale” so as not to have to move as much over. Live and learn.