Hanging out in the decor
|Video: INspiration Furniture grand opening|
By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Andrew Gomes
A giant new furniture store opens Saturday morning on Kapi'olani Boulevard, and as well as designer furnishings it's got a design like no other in Hawai'i.
In it there are beds, lamps, dining sets and office desks. Oh, and a $42,000 leather couch, furniture by luxury fashion apparel maker Fendi, a haute cuisine restaurant, a cafe, occasional music performances and an automated self-serve wine bar with some 90 wines for sampling.
It's a shopping experience conceived by INspiration Furniture owner Thomas Sorensen, who for seven years advanced plans that have become the $52 million Honolulu Design Center on Kapi'olani Boulevard between Pensacola and Pi'ikoi streets.
The furniture showrooms open Saturday at 10 a.m. inside the long orange-paneled three-story building fronting the pair of nearly finished oval Moana Pacific high-rise condominiums.
Opening Sunday morning is the cafe where consumers can buy food and drinks as well as coffee machines and other accessories for their kitchens.
The wine bar and area for special events and performances won't be finished until March, followed by the restaurant in April.
"This is my biggest venture yet," said Sorensen, a longtime Hawai'i furniture retailer who founded Scan/Design Furniture in 1979, was a partner in Scan/Line Office Interiors and opened INspiration at Pearlridge Center in 1997. "I've been working on it so long. It's been very exciting."
Design Center spokeswoman Joett Colgan said the combination of furniture sales with the restaurant, wine bar, cafe and a special events area available for rent and entertainment is intended to make the store a gathering place. "It's a big leap for us," she said. "We've never done something like this before."
Local retail analyst Stephany Sofos said some retailers, such as department stores, have long operated restaurants inside their stores, but that Sorensen's venture is unique for Hawai'i.
"It's very innovative," she said. "You're competing with a 100-year-old (furniture) retailer like C.S. Wo and a lot of others who have been established in the area for a long time. You need to have a good reason to make people want to come."
Sofos said the fine-dining restaurant, wine bar and cafe give consumers more reasons to visit the store, and also communicate a lifestyle image with the intent to help sell classy furniture.
The restaurant, called Stage, is still being built on the second floor with its own bar and an exhibition kitchen to feature executive chef Jon Matsubara, a one-time line cook for Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong who most recently was head chef at the Mauna Lani Resort's CanoeHouse Restaurant on the Big Island.
Colgan said each one of the dining tables in the 90-seat restaurant will be different, and that some will be available for purchase in the showrooms.
TO A*MUSE CLIENTELE
The wine bar, called A*muse, is also on the second floor. A single bartender will sell debit cards that customers can use to purchase wine from four automated dispensing machines able to pour as little as one ounce from any one of about 90 bottles.
"You can have everything from a taste to a full glass," Colgan said.
The special events area, being called Cupola, is also on the second floor and is under a retractable half-circle dome skylight. Starting in April, the area is slated to feature live jazz twice a month, and show a film for dinner guests once a month. Colgan also said the space will be available for rent for banquets, seminars or other private functions.
Also on the second floor is a lanai with a martini bar available for private receptions.
Furniture for sale is displayed on all three floors of the complex. The second floor contains an assortment of beds, lighting, a line of bean bag furniture and a mid-priced showroom with lots of merchandise also found at INspiration.
The third floor contains collections of office furniture and rustic furniture for the home.
On the ground floor are high-end furniture collections from manufacturers such as Italian sofa maker Natuzzi, wardrobe specialist Molteni & C, Fendi, and Swiss firm de Sade, which makes the $42,000 sofa that's about 20 feet long.
"Thomas calls it his Rodeo Drive," Colgan said of the high-end section.
Also on the ground floor are a primary lighting showroom, a young and trendy collection of modular furniture by BoConcept and the cafe called Crema, which will have outside seating.
In all, the Design Center is 80,000 square feet, including 65,000 square feet of showroom space.
Sorensen initially planned to build an interior furnishing retail complex on a nearby site at 1011 Kapi'olani Blvd. once occupied by the Flamingo Chuckwagon restaurant. Sorensen bought the site in late 1999, and drew up plans for a $25 million, five-story project with 110,000 square feet that was scheduled to open in 2002.
But the initial plan encountered delays, and Sorensen ended up selling part of the property to Public Storage for a self-storage facility, and later sold the rest of the land to KC Rainbow Development to develop a condo high-rise called Moana Vista that recently began construction.
As part of the deal with KC Rainbow, Sorensen arranged to integrate his retail complex with KC Rainbow's twin-tower Moana Pacific condo project slated for completion next week.
Reach Andrew Gomes at email@example.com.