For decades, Clarke appliance showrooms, with locations in Milford and South Norwalk, Connecticut, have been conducting business a little bit—or a lot, actually—differently than their competitors. “We’re focused on improving the lives of homeowners who are outfitting their kitchens,” says Sean Clarke, the company’s general manager. “The process of remodeling or building a new kitchen is stressful, there are a lot of tough decisions involved and people develop anxiety about it all.”
It starts at the showroom
Clarke’s showrooms contain more than 20 sample kitchens outfitted not only with the most innovative appliance models (along with the more standard ranges, refrigerators, and dishwashers) on the market, but with upscale cabinetry and counters. “We want customers to come in and not only look at our appliances, but to get backsplash ideas and to see some of the different cabinet options that are out there now,” says Clarke.
An appointment at Clarke generally lasts between 90 minutes and two hours. “In a typical retail environment, you don’t get uninterrupted time like that with a sales associate,” says Sandra Lashway, Clarke’s Milford showroom manager, who points out that after each appointment, a Clarke team member will send the customer all of the details and specifications on each product they looked at. “Throughout the decision-making process customers come back two, three, even five times to look at the items they’re interested in,” adds Lashway. “And we work very hard to make the process seamless.”
It continues in the home
While it may seem that a customer’s relationship with Clarke has neared the end once appliances have been purchased, it hasn’t—the relationship, rather, has merely approached a new phase. “We feel that we can be helpful before, during, and after the sale takes place,” says Clarke. “We really want to have ongoing relationships with our customers.”
To this end, the company has recently launched a new initiative: “The Clarke Continuum of Care,” which centers around ensuring customers get the maximum and informed use of their appliances. The program involves around-the-clock telephone consultations during which Clarke employees are available to answer questions about the operation and care of appliances.
They’ll show you how
If a phone call isn’t enough to clarify the use of your new appliances, Clarke offers use and care demonstrations in both its Massachusetts and Connecticut showrooms. “Once the dust settles, people often realize they aren’t exactly sure how to handle their new appliances,” says Clarke. The demonstrations are attended by people who have purchased appliances, along with other folks who are considering buying the products. “A benefit of this is that people who haven’t made the decision to buy a particular model have the chance to talk to people who have,” says Lashway. “They’re able to learn more about the products by listening to others share their experiences.”
A certain savoir fare
To aid customers in outfitting their new range with the right cookware, Clarke has launched Savoir Fare, a showroom boutique and online store providing everything necessary to set up a new kitchen with special offers and sale notifications that add even greater value. If your appliance should need repair, Clarke has that covered, too. Clarke Customer Care is the top-rated appliance service company in New England and includes a team dedicated to the maintenance and repair of Sub-Zero, Wolf and ASKO exclusively.
Exceptional special events…
Clarke customers also have the opportunity to participate in special events and cooking classes headed by celebrity chefs including Ming Tsai, Andy Husbands, and Mary Ann Esposito that are available through The Clarke Culinary Center. Once a month, says Lashway, Clarke hosts a demonstration during which the public has the opportunity to learn the epicurean secrets of the headlining celebrity chef, along with plenty of opportunity to ask them questions too. “We keep the events small, to about 65 people, so people really get to interact with the chef,” she says.
…and even travel
Finally, the Continuum of Care concept gives Clarke customers access to Atlas Travel Vacation and Cruise’s team of culinary travel experts who offer opportunities to vacation while learning about a destination through its culture of food and wine. This bespoke travel program offers custom vacation planning that starts with questions about the wines a traveler likes, culinary favorites or foods they would like to explore, and previous travel experiences. “Clarke’s customers are passionate about cooking, fine wine and extraordinary food, so we have partnered with them to market our culinary travel collection. We call it a collection, but there’s nothing off-the-shelf about it,” says Karen McCrink, manager of Atlas Travel. “Every trip is individually planned to offer travelers a unique experience through the culture of food and wine.”
Sean Clarke was so enthused by the custom trip concept that he invited the celebrity chefs who cook at the Clarke Culinary Center to participate. “We are now exploring with several of them where and how they might like to lead a travel group to a destination that has particular interest for them,” says McCrink.
“What could be better: if you’ve cooked with one of our celeb chefs, you can follow them to Italy, Spain, Germany, or France on a fantastic culinary excursion,” says Clarke. “I’m really excited about the Continuum of Care. We’ve got a lot going on with the program, and there will be more eventually, I’m excited to see what comes next.”
Article published in 2013-14 issue.
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