Sala Azabu, one of Japan’s largest retailers of high end furniture, has signed an exclusive contract with Kindel Furniture Co. in the United States to become the sole distributor in Japan of Kindel’s hand crafted, quality furniture for homes and businesses.
Mr. Masazo Hara, president of Sala Azabu, lead a delegation of nine Japanese executives to Grand Rapids, Michigan last Thursday to sign an exclusive 4-year agreement to sell Kindel furniture at the Sala Azabu store in the heart of Tokyo. Sala Azabu is devoting its second floor of 335 square meters (3,600 square feet) to display Kindel furniture, which is handmade by craftsmen using techniques that are very labor intensive.
Established in 1901, Kindel is known worldwide for its authentic furniture reproductions and historically based designs of the 18th and 19th century. The largest operation of its kind in the United States, Kindel employs about 130 people including hand carvers, decorators and other skilled craftsmen at its 15,800-square-meter (170,000-square-feet) facility at 100 Garden Street SE.
Kindel has captured a market niche as a manufacturer of authentic reproductions and historically based designs of the 18th and 19th centuries that feature intricate carvings and laborious hand-rubbed finishes. To view some of Kindel’s furniture, please visit www.kindelfurniture.com.
The agreement signed last week with Sala Azabu is the first venture in Japan for Kindel, and the Sala Azabu showroom will be one of the largest Kindel displays in the world. “I wanted to market the best furniture that the United States has to offer, and that is why I came to Grand Rapids,” Mr. Hara said. Mr. Hara said he has been researching Kindel for about a year and was impressed with its reliance on hand craftsmanship which Japanese consumers will appreciate.
Kindel President Jonathan Smith said he was very pleased to have developed a relationship with Sala Azabu because of the retailer’s fine reputation in Japan. Mr. Smith said that Japanese consumers are a very good market for Kindel because they appreciate quality, service and fine workmanship, and he noted that about 40% of all the luxury goods sold in the world are sold in Japan.
Mr. Smith said Kindel already has begun designing a high-end cabinet for plasma televisions just for the Japanese market, in response to the exclusive sales agreement with Sala Azabu. Mr. Hara and other executives from Sala Azabu visited Grand Rapids last week to select 78 different pieces of furniture, fabrics and finishes that will meet Japanese tastes.
Amy Wolbert, director of marketing for Kindel, said she has been working with Sala Azabu executives for about a year to consummate the agreement. She said the amount of time and care that Sala Azabu took in learning about Kindel shows that it is a high quality retailer that values a long-term relationship.
Kindel plans to start shipping the furniture to Sala Azabu in November.
Those pieces of furniture will include classic designs that Kindel has an exclusive license to manufacture. In 1980, Kindel Furniture was awarded the exclusive rights to reproduce the furniture for The Winterthur Museum, the estate of Henry Francis du Pont in Winterthur, Delaware, and the most premier museum of decorative arts in the country.
Mr. Hara and other Sala Azabu executives visited the Winterthur Museum in Wilmington, Delaware and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia to learn more about the style of furniture that Kindel makes before they arrived at the Kindel factory in Grand Rapids.
Kindel also makes reproductions from two other programs. Collaborating with Carleton Varney, of the Dorothy Draper firm in New York, Kindel reproduces objects for the Varney and Sons Collection, which include original designs from the legendary interior designer, Dorothy Draper. Kindel’s most recent collections include a licensed program with Mount Vernon, the ancestral home of George Washington, and a new and updated classical collection called Knowledge.
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