On March 14, the Retail Alliance announced that the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is Decorum Furniture. Claus Ihlemann and Robert Roman’s business success and longevity, profitability, visual merchandising and community involvement made this year’s choice an easy decision.
Claus and Robert have graciously accepted the invitation to receive the award. “As the owners of Decorum Furniture, we get to do what we love every day,” says owner, Claus Ihlemann. “We get to surround ourselves with amazing people, staff and customers alike.”
When Claus Ihlemann arrived in Norfolk in 1975, he noticed the need for a contemporary furniture and design store. An opportunity presented itself to open a small retail shop in the 900 block of 21st Street in Norfolk. Initially the main focus was on Scandinavian furniture, area rugs and textiles. By 1979, through a partnership with Vernon (Buzzie) Middleton, Claus was able to expand the business and move to their current location at 301 West 21stStreet. An expanded retail space allowed them to add American Contemporary and Transitional styles. Initially the showroom encompassed the first floor and the Mezzanine of the Building. In time, they expanded into all 3 stories of the building.
“Retail is forever evolving and it is important to be able to adapt to the changes in the marketplace,” says Ihlemann. At various times they have included some traditional furniture in their collection, European antiques, and Coastal styles. They found, however, that the perfect niche for them in the Hampton Roads Market is Contemporary and Transitional styles.
Robert Roman joined Claus in 2003, and together with a great team at Decorum, have assembled an outstanding collection of the best in Contemporary and Transitional furniture. Many of the manufacturers they sell are exclusive to them in this market, which helps them maintain a competitive edge.
In September of 2016, Claus and Robert stood with Virginia’s Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and cut the ribbon at the Grand Reopening of Decorum. The Event was the culmination of 10 months of construction work to completely re-do the exterior of the building and extensive interior re-modeling. Prior to construction, they spent three years or so planning the process with the goal of The Decorum Furniture building having an iconic architectural design.
“What you do impacts your neighborhood and the region, and you strive to make sure this is positive and game changing. For us, owning and operating the business is a way of life, and hopefully having a positive impact on other people’s lives,” says Ihlemann.
He goes on to say, “Community involvement and giving back is crucial, and the networking is a great way to build your support. We do this in a variety of ways: Involvement with various organizations, such as Hope House, Tidewater Arts Outreach, Access AIDS among others; supporting events; participating in organizations, and supporting their missions. It has become one of our strongest marketing tools. We believe in paying it forward.”
The couple will be honored at an awards banquet on May 19, 2016.