Janelle and Kirk Loevner are the owners of Anthem Interiors. Janelle founded the business in 2008 with the opening of the flagship Anthem Home store in the Presidio Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. Since then, the business has expanded with the addition of an interior design business in 2010 and the opening of the new Anthem Bed & Bath store in late 2015. We sat down with Janelle and Kirk to discuss why they founded Anthem, why brick and mortar businesses are still thriving and the importance of Small Business Week.
“A unique in-store experience can't be duplicated online, so there will always be a place for brick and mortar.”
What was the inspiration behind starting a home interiors business?
Janelle: I wanted to share my passion for design with others. I love scouring the globe for unique and special treasures and helping customers figure out how to incorporate them into their own homes. I believe in surrounding yourself with what you love. I strive to show our customers fantastic merchandise, and hope they fall in love with it. I want their homes to reflect their personality and the people that live there.
Where do you see Anthem going in the future?
Kirk: We plan to expand down the Peninsula. We will be opening up an Anthem store in Menlo Park in early 2017. I feel that it is a very underserved market when it comes to the kind of high-end design and quality merchandise that Anthem offers. We believe Janelle's contemporary aesthetic will be very well received in Silicon Valley.
What are the biggest strengths that small businesses have over large chain businesses?
Janelle: One area is customer service. Our team is comprised of seasoned retail and design professionals who greet every customer personally and make them feel welcome. Many of our customers live in the neighborhood and have been shopping with us for years. We know them well, we know their tastes and we know exactly what would look great in their home.
Kirk: We also have a number of programs that cater specifically to the local interior design community. We make it easy for design professionals to do business with us. They can come to us for all of their accessories and decor needs without having to shop around town to find beautiful things for their projects. Then they can place items in their clients’ homes on loan to try out merchandise before a purchase is made.
With the advent of internet shopping, isn't brick and mortar retailing a dying industry?
Kirk: Having been CEO of the first internet shopping company in 1997, I have a pretty good sense for internet commerce. When you are selling luxury goods and a certain style that Janelle has cultivated, people want to be able to touch, feel and experience the goods first hand. Even in 2016, your ability to experience fine linens or throws online is limited. You want to be able touch, appreciate, and look at items in different lighting conditions and in different combinations. A unique in-store experience can't be duplicated online, so there will always be a place for brick and mortar for the kind of merchandise that Anthem sells.
How do you find new customers and design clients?
Janelle: We have been in San Francisco since 2008 and people have liked what we've been able to do for them. As a result, our growth has been primarily word of mouth referrals. We are very involved in our neighborhood and the San Francisco design community. We support numerous local events and causes.
Kirk: We had never done any formal marketing until recently as our client referrals have kept us with a constant waiting list for design work. We've recently launched on social media with Facebook and Instagram to allow a broader set of people access to the Anthem brand. And we are about to launch a new website in May, which will be our first website revision in over five years.
What differentiates Anthem from other Home Interiors retailers?
Janelle: We believe we have a unique contemporary look that our customers appreciate. We source and curate unique merchandise from all over the world to create our Anthem in-store experience.
Kirk: Our interior design customers are all very busy so Anthem is a great one-stop resource for them to source unique accessories and decor. We probably have the largest selection of high-end accessories in San Francisco, all in stock and available for immediate delivery.
How did you come up with the name “Anthem Interiors”?
Janelle: I was inspired by the idea of helping people create a unique environment , or “Anthem” for their home. The theme resonated with me, and so it stuck, plus it’s just a great word in general.
To you, what is the importance of Small Business Week?
Kirk: In a time when everyone is shopping online for many of their purchases, we like the idea of supporting the local businesses that still do things the old fashioned way. We find unique pieces and share them with our clientele who want to touch and feel them. Our customers work with our staff to find just the right gift or special accent for their home. Or they just drop by to say “hi” to see what’s new in store this week. Many say they come in just to be inspired. We can’t imagine a better compliment than that!
Other than Small Business Week, what can other businesses and customers do to support local small businesses?
Janelle: Shopping local is the first thing. Beyond that, small businesses need to support each other. Neighborhood shopping days or “Stroll and Shop” holiday celebrations are a great way to build community and attract new customers. Co-sponsoring events or doing co-promotions are also a fun way to expand your clientele. We always tell anyone visiting from out of town where else they should stop on the street. Sacramento Street has really become a beautiful place to shop.
How do you contribute to enriching the surrounding community?
Kirk: We support the local schools and philanthropic events such as the Junior League Home Tour and the SF Decorator Showcase. The Showcase benefits University High School, which is just down the block from our stores. We also support the SF Fall Antiques Show which benefits Enterprise for High School Students, to name just a few.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of First Republic Bank.
©First Republic Bank 2016