By Vanesa Vennard
Joel Kier has been an avid Gracious Home shopper for nearly two decades. The premier home and goods store first opened in 1963 in the Upper East Side, and thanks to Kier, the company will make it to it’s 50th anniversary this year; still in business and better than ever.
In 2010, the former owners of Gracious Home filed for bankruptcy. However, Kier, a partner in the Americas Retail Flagship Fund LLC, saw this as a chance to save and revamp the classic company.
“I wanted to attempt a white knight rescue of the company,” Kier said. “It was a desire to save a great New York store along with the opportunity to then take the company to the next level in terms of delivering a truly unique and exciting experience both online and in the stores.”
Kier, CEO and chairman of Kier Group, said by acquiring Gracious Home, Americas Retail Flagship Fund LLC helped save around 300 jobs and then Kier assisted in retraining staff.
He is striving to make Gracious Home a better experience for customers with staff knowledgeable of their products and attentive to the customer’s wants and needs. Kier wants Gracious Home to be a personalized shopping experience.
“We want to know a lot about you before you come in, and that makes your life easier,” he said. “I think that shoppers today are more informed than ever before, they have access to tremendous resources online and therefore they know more about what they need before they even come into a store.”
Informed shoppers means the bar had to be raised, which Kier appreciated. Kier also keeps in mind that many people have been attempting do-it-yourself projects in order to save money.
“If you provide something that is just OK, it’s not good enough anymore,” he said.
In March 2013, they will launch The Registry at Gracious Home, which will be their more personalized and attentive wedding registry. Kier said he wants the registry one-on-one visits with the staff to feel like a spa weekend.
“We’ve done registries quietly and by appointment, but now we’re formally launching the registry with a unique way to provide a truly once in a lifetime registry experience,” he said. “It’s not so much about the pressure of a very important day but about the fun experience of working with our people to tailor your choices.”
Kier’s creativity and want for quality products also lead to the launch of an interior design department at the end of 2012. Kier said the interior design department allows New Yorkers to choose from the best fabrics and fabric houses.
Gracious Home employees then help customers figure out how to use the fabrics as window treatments or to reupholster furniture.
“Not just the item, we can create the environment along with it,” he said.
Gracious Home also hosts regular tasting demonstrations in the kitchen product area and with L’Epicerie, they sell specialty olive oils, chocolates, pastas and more.
Kier said the two years have flown by since he started with Gracious Home. The continued improvements have built confidence and increase his excitement toward the company, he said. But he is still working toward making improvements to Gracious Home, and to people’s lives.
“At the end of the day the mission is clear, you want to improve the business daily, little by little, occasionally you can make a big step like a wedding registry or an interior design department,” he said. “There was so much opportunity here even after all these years. And with careful leadership and building a great team, we can get it accomplished.”
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