First Supply opens Wisconsin’s first Kohler Signature Store

First-class style, however, is also backed up by world-class LEED standards.

First Supply held a grand opening for Wisconsin’s first Kohler Signature Store, Sept. 6, in Wauwatosa, just outside Milwaukee with no less than David Kohler, CEO of Kohler Co. on hand for the festivities.

“First Supply is one of the oldest, one of largest and one of the best distributors we do business with,” Kohler said. “But it’s more than just size and age, it’s also the commitment and entrepreneurial leadership the company has made to taking the expansion of the Signature Store idea to a whole new chapter.”

The store offers full design services for both kitchen and bath, including product selection, design development and project assistance. It also features fully functional vignettes and suites, including kitchen and bath products from Kohler, Robern, Kohler Surfaces title and stone, Kohler vanities, and the largest display of Kallista in the area. Additionally, the store features Ann Sacks tile and stone and cabinetry from Masterbrand Cabinets, Inc., making it a single resource for one-stop shop for full kitchen and bathroom projects for both trade professionals and consumers.

“We are the premier destination to experience Kohler products in Southeastern Wisconsin,” said Kathryn Poehling, chief operating officer for the company’s kitchen and bath division. “First Supply has a long-standing partnership with Kohler. Nearly 120 years ago, the Kohler Company provided the first quote for a bathtub to First Supply. Like Kohler, we pride ourselves on running a family-owned business with an innovative approach to kitchen and bath design.”

In fact, a copy of that quote is featured in a timeline that backs up the long-term commitment First Supply has made to the kitchen and bath business. The quote spelled out in a letter, dated Sept. 10, 1897, to the great-grandfather of Joe Poehling, CEO of First Supply, was signed by Robert Kohler, treasurer of what was then called “Kohler, Hayssen & Stehn Mfg Co.”

Further down the timeline is another milestone for the company when, in 1940, Gary “Gerhard” Poehling opened up what likely was the first bath and kitchen showroom at the company’s LaCrosse, Wis., operations. (In 1987, First Supply named its chain of showrooms “Gerhard’s” in his honor.)

This is the second distributor-owned and -operated Signature Store for First Supply, which opened its first in Edina, Minn., four years ago.

The 5,800 sq. ft. site is located across from the Mayfair Mall, a popular shopping destination, which contains some 180 stores and is anchored by Nordstrom and Macy’s. Taking a cue from its Milwaukee heritage, the showroom will feature local cream city brick and reclaimed barn board as part of its overall design, making the connection between the store and the area’s architectural and agricultural legacy.

First Supply also operates 14 Gerhard’s Kitchen and Bath stores, with a total of 100,000 sq. ft. of display space in all. This store is the fifth for First Supply in Southeastern Wisconsin area joining the Gerhard’s Kitchen and Bath Stores in Brookfield, Whitefish Bay, Sheboygan and Kenosha, which all totaled accounts for about 30,000 sq. ft. of kitchen and bath space for the region.

LEED Silver

This is the 12th Kohler Signature Store to open across the country. However, it is the first such showroom that’s expected to earn LEED Silver status.
Jim Poehling, PE, vice president of engineering services for the wholesaler, guided the design of the HVAC and electrical systems of the store.

“Besides being a beautiful showroom,” he added, “it is also state of the art and energy efficient.”

Computer simulations of energy usage (as required by LEED certification) show that this showroom will save 46 percent of the energy cost vs. a showroom that met the minimum Wisconsin energy use standards.

Here are several of his energy-efficient highlights:

  • The store is divided into three zones, each with its own heating and cooling equipment. This helps minimize over and undercooling of each of the three zones.
  • The three furnaces are 1) 97 percent and 2) 98 percent AFUE.
  • They have ECM blowers that are variable speed. ECM motors are 30-40 percent more efficient than the conventional PSC motors  found in normal furnaces.
  • The burners are modulating fire to maintain a constant discharge temperature. This helps maintain a constant discharge temperature as the air flow changes.
  • The cooling is done with SEER 19 Comfortmaker condensers and coils. The condensers are variable speed for the outdoor fan.
  • The compressors are variable speed, which allows a constant discharge temperature throughout the air flow ranges.
  • The fresh air for the showroom is controlled by a Honeywell “Jade” economizer controller.
  • The controller has a carbon dioxide sensor attached to it to maintain a carbon dioxide level between 400 and 1,700 ppm.
  • The outside air and the return air both has enthalpy sensors installed. This allows the controller to choose which air stream has the lowest energy requirements for heating or cooling the space and will use that air stream preferentially.
  • The system maintains a positive pressure within the space using a differential pressure controller. This prevents unpleasant infiltration from doors.
  • The lighting system has 24 programmable zones within the store.  All of the space lighting fixtures are LED for minimum heat gain and maximum electrical efficiency. The zones near windows have photocell sensors to lower the output of the LED fixtures when the outdoor light is bright enough.
  • All zones have “occupancy sensors” that work off both motion and infrared detection. If a zone does not sense anyone in the zone for 15 minutes, the lighting level will drop to 50 percent output. After 30 minutes of no one in the space, that part of the showroom will turn off.
  • There is a time clock and photocell to control the lighting for the outdoor building signage. From midnight to 5 a.m., the signage is not lit. The photocell allows the signage to be lit on the dark days of winter without any intervention by the sales personnel.
  • The electrical consumption for the total showroom and for the lighting is automatically recorded and saved by sensors. This part of LEED credits is meant to build a meaningful database for future showrooms and buildings across the world.

“Besides the installation and certification of the Wauwatosa building to meet the standards required by LEED V4,” Poehling added, “we also have a monitoring program that revisits how the building is operating and what can be done to keep the space efficient and safe for our employees and customers.”

The new store should be the company’s most energy-efficient facility. Every single one of the company’s 27 locations is measured and tracked on a monthly basis, measuring both electrical and natural gas consumption. All location are then compared by square footage and degree-days.

“This helps define where to place ‘new dollars’ into lowering energy costs for the company,” Poehling said.

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