Celebrate Your Wins, Even In 2020

At the tail end of a year that words fail to describe, I find solidarity and strength looking back at the trials our company and family have overcome over the years. It also helps when we are able to pause and celebrate the wins, and 2020 still had one of the brightest accomplishments in Chown’s 141-year history: We opened our third showroom, in Seattle’s SODO district, which won the 2020 Showroom of the Year Award from the Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association.

Whether you are new to Chown, a long-term client, or simply a fellow member of our pacific northwest community, I hope you find strength in the journey that brought us to today. We have faced world wars, a Great Depression, recessions, and now, a global pandemic—and we’re still here.

In 1879 my great-great-grandfather, F. R. Chown, opened the doors to a new builder’s hardware and home goods store in Portland, OR. As the company evolved in its first century the business branched out in many new and innovative ways: windows and doors, some of the first fishing and hunting licenses in the state, clothing and outerwear, power tools and machinery, and our commercial division in the late 1940’s, which has remained the backbone of our business to this day. However, the heart and face of our business since the 1970s has been our decorative residential hardware and plumbing division, which is still growing with the opening of our third showroom in Seattle this summer.

My grandmother, Eleanor Chown, set the stage for my cousin Joel and I to have a role to play in our family company where our penchant for design and beauty could thrive. In the mid 1990’s, a steady decline in tool sales as a result of the “Big Box” stores opening up led the family to make the difficult decision to sell the tool division and invest the proceeds in the residential department. Eleanor entrusted Kaye Powell with her vision in 1993 and passed the torch to her to grow the business—and grow it, she did.

Kaye was instrumental in the success we experience today. She spearheaded the opening of our Bellevue showroom on the eve of September 11, 2001. Needless to say, it was a tough economic climate to navigate at the time. However, despite all the changes, Kaye found time to mentor Joel and me until her retirement in 2016.

L to R: Jeff Rose, Kaye Powell, Nathanael Chown

Chown has been blessed with wonderful employees and leaders throughout the decades who have focused on bringing excellence and attention to detail to the forefront of our approach to serve the design community. Out of this, our vision for Seattle was born.

In early 2019 the board made the unanimous decision to open our third showroom in Seattle. A month later, we had a lease pending on a building in SODO next door to Rejuvenation and a mile away from the Seattle Design Center—an ideal location for convenience to the design trade.

With a blank slate at our fingertips, Chown hired the services of Arielle and Travis Weedman of the Portland firm Weedman Design Partners to design the space, emphatic on the notion that our showroom be built with designers and their clients at the heart of the project. For construction, our first call was to long-time customers Owen and Zach Roberts of Roberts Group in Kirkland, who facilitated the build.

It goes without saying, construction projects always have unforeseen obstacles to overcome—but none of us could have predicted the adversity ahead of our team in Bellevue on the heels of the year that was 2020. Through tragedy and uncertainty our employees persevered through wave after wave as we welcomed fresh and familiar faces when we opened our doors for the first time on July 20th, 2020.

As we embark on this new adventure, we want to show our sincerest gratitude to the women and men who got us to this milestone:

Our employees in all three cities who worked tirelessly over the years and who kept the lights on through this pandemic.

Our loyal customers who stuck it out with us when all our job sites were halted statewide.

The Chown family: Fred, David, Kyle, Danny, Joel, and Mikey for investing, again, in the dream our matriarch, Eleanor, pioneered.

Lastly, thank you Kaye, for the decades you invested in our department and in the next generation of our Chown family legacy. I speak for the whole family when I say that we wouldn’t be here today without your dedication. This award is as much yours as it is ours.

Keep the faith and thank you for supporting our business.


Nathanael Chown