Saturday, February 11, 2012

Craig's Crossing - Reinvent, Refresh, Revive

One of the most rewarding aspects about working in the golf industry is the interesting cast of characters that one gets to meet on both sides of the counter. Ken Bauer of Bauer International, Inc. is a world traveler with a family history and background that by itself is the grist for an incredible book. Early in his career he traveled to the far corners of the globe and garnered the moniker the “Indiana Jones of Antiques”. 

Ken is a philanthropist who was deeply involved with helping Charleston, SC bring back its maritime heritage through the building of the tall ship, The Spirit. When you enter the offices of Bauer International, in a very industrial neighborhood in Charleston, you are transported to a world which reflects the mystique and international attitude of the owner whose philosophy is to utilize the best and most unique designs and workmanship the world has to offer. This philosophy, encompasses all facets of his enterprise including his catalogs, one of which won a Benjamin (named in honor of Benjamin Franklin) recognizing excellence in independent publishing.  It is here in Charleston that Ken designs and creates golf shop fixtures and will reinvent your locker room while providing incredible conversation.  

Ken, I am a huge fan of the quality, functionality, look and feel of your product and services. Explain if you would some of the principles your design staff brings to the project to create and/or renovate retail space in golf shops?

If we are asked to be integrally involved in creating or renovating any part of a clubhouse, be it the locker rooms, dining rooms, meeting rooms and/or the golf shop, we want first to thoroughly understand the vision of the GM, the Pro and their membership. We need to get to know as much as possible about the history of the club and its demographics. We do not want to recreate the shop down the street. Our reason for being there is to accomplish as economically as possible a renovation that provides a distinctiveness that reflects the flavor and theme of the facility and its members. We want to build and add to the image of their ‘brand’. With this in mind I like to personally follow up on all project opportunities so as to assure we are heading down that path.

What are the design inspirations behind the “Fixtures by Collection” concept and when do you suggest custom planning?

Craig, I’m going to answer the second part of your question first. We typically suggest custom work when we need to match the details of the architecture or the subtleties of the building. Also, occasionally the theme-based requests require either total customization or a variation on an existing collection theme which could include a different color story or a particular wood or finish on existing collection pieces.

Our three major themes include:
  • The Hampstead Collection – inspired by 19th century British and Dutch colonial furnishings. Hand-crafted of solid mahogany and veneers with exquisite hand carvings, utilizing the same century old woodworking techniques as the originals.
  • The Stiles Brothers Collection- evokes the spirit of adventure from the early travelers to the far corners of the globe. Derived from those original shapes and form this collection is hand-crafted of rattan, leather and brass fittings.
  • The Emerald Isles Collection – has a southern contemporary sophistication. It is rustic, authentic, distressed and casual, utilizing recycled mahogany and brass.

Given the economic climate. what is the thrust of the marketing plan going forward? It is obvious that there is a lot of golf retail that needs your type of help to differentiate itself but there has to be some of the “What comes first the chicken or the egg” that potential customers  experiencing.

We have partnered with the Ranier sales-force to meet with prospective clients in all regions of the country to take existing relationships and explore the possibilities of Bauer International helping with any capital improvements from redesigning the clubhouse to adding a four-way. We have had to navigate the stormy seas of the last few years like everyone else. While our commitment through this downturn has been to streamline some of our cost and become as value driven as possible we still focus on customized differentiation and quality.

What would you say to the owner of a golf shop who is on the edge about spending the money it costs to remodel?

It is an obvious fact that a well designed, well thought out, well-merchandised shop increases business. A shop is not, however, just a vehicle for selling merchandise – it is an extension of your club/resort/facility’s brand. The heart and soul of most clubs that both members and guests or players and friends see first and often remember most are the golf shop and locker room.

Ken – thanks for your time and enlightening us on some of the important aspects of your business which I don’t believe to be well understood. Is there anything that you would like to add to this entry?

Craig, thank you. We believe that all business needs to constantly move forward to thrive and the phrase that we have adopted as a mantra and that you have used as the title of this interview is “Reinvent, Refresh, Revive”. This is the thought that I would most like to leave with everyone.

Ken Bauer describes himself as a wood jockey. I would describe him as a craftsman with an incredible passion for the detail and quality of what he does and the people he does it with and for. He employs people in remote villages to take specific advantage of hand-carving and caning. Ken tells how he brought electricity to two villages in Java and how an entire village in Ghana is busy making hardware he designed, using the ancient technique of “lost wax” brass casting. “Business is not a one-sided situation, it has to be mutually beneficial. I look at everything long term. I want my relationships with these people to continue and prosper.” 

Click the banner to the right for the Bauer International golf page slideshow. If you speak with Ken please give him my best.