Legacy of Intention:
Welcoming the Next Generation of Chown
As we reflect back on our 142-year history, our family’s fifth-generation leaders—Kyle, Nathanael, and Joel—are looking toward the future. They have been in the family business since they were kids, sweeping showroom aisles, filling warehouse orders, and counting inventory. Now, they’re taking on decision-making roles, integrating the wisdom and knowledge of their ancestors into new innovations. Upholding our values in quality service, community engagement, and exceptional product offerings, the next generation aims to introduce new technology, brand expansions, and creative investments to the design community.
“We as fifth-generation owners hope to continue to be forward thinking and innovative as our ancestors were,” says President, Kyle Chown. “Many of the reasons why we are still in business today have to do with keeping our finger on the pulse of trends in the market and consumer buying habits. We want to always be looking to innovate and create something beautiful for our clients.”
We have been a resource for the design community for decades, offering top-notch products and service to clients in our Portland and Bellevue showrooms. In 2020, we introduced our first Seattle showroom, allowing local designers, architects, and builders to experience our selection of high-end products in a beautiful two-story space in Seattle’s up-and-coming design district. The showroom features a conference room and workstations to facilitate client meetings, as well as removable wall hangs for clients to compare products. We also expanded our sales efforts by meeting designers in their offices, hand-delivering samples and attending site meetings on location. The next generation hopes to further this presence to widen our availability as the business grows.
“Our core principles will and should never change, but our attention to how we merchandise and present the business is changing, and in very successful ways,” says Nathanael Chown, the Bellevue Showroom Manager and member of the Board of Directors. “The Seattle showroom is a testament to that vision. We wanted to create an environment that welcomed the creativity and value for the quality of products we supply and we did just that. It’s a beautifully designed space built to cultivate the creativity of our clients. It’s a new high bar we intend to replicate in each of our showrooms.”
We also recently brought the showroom experience online with a new virtual showroom, offering clients an opportunity to shop the showroom from afar. The virtual showroom serves as a digital product tour with the ability to shop products found in all our showrooms and connect directly with our expert sales representatives on specific product questions. Created in response to the increasingly digital industry and social distancing, the next generation continues to innovate and adapt to the everchanging design landscape, just as their predecessors did for the past 142 years.
In addition, our Commercial Division website was recently refreshed with a new look and more resources for our commercial clients in the Pacific Northwest. The new site provides clients everything needed to create a safe, secure, and compliant opening, from mechanical and electronic hardware, doors and frames, stand-alone and networked security solutions, as well as camera systems. The site also connects clients to our team of experts, who can offer full-site surveys, installation services, and emergency repairs in commercial businesses, education facilities, healthcare facilities, government agencies, multifamily, and commercial property management alike.
Chown Hardware wouldn’t be what it is today without the support from the Pacific Northwest design community, and the company’s leaders are devising more creative ways to show their appreciation. Over the next few years, they aim to launch scholarship and internship opportunities to support the next generation of designers. They also plan to incorporate sustainable practices like solar panels and rainwater capture from all three showroom locations to benefit the community and the planet. Last but least, they hope to elevate sustainable vendors who use natural, renewable materials and have non-profit outreach embedded into their business model.
“Our vision for the future is to blend more between what we do as a business and how we love deeply as humans,” says Kyle. “Our connection to our communities is a big deal for us and we want to lean into that fully.”
We have served the Pacific Northwest design community for decades, but the next generation is excited to broaden horizons with more residential showrooms across the west coast. The company’s residential division was founded by Kyle, Nathanael, and Joel’s grandmother, Eleanor Chown, in 1974, and has since grown to be the company’s most successful sector. Eleanor was a visionary, who the Chowns are thrilled to honor in future endeavors.
“The proof of Eleanor’s vision is in the numbers,” says Nathanael. “What was a small source of revenue 40 years ago has grown to more than half of the business today, with no signs of slowing down.”
The new leaders also plan to expand the family business beyond hardware into other areas relating to the designing and specifying process. They are currently developing a residential installation service, providing full in-house expertise and quality from concept to completion, as well as real estate.
As we continue to grow and evolve, Kyle, Nathanael, and Joel take the wisdom of their predecessors to heart. From their upbringing in the family business, they learned how to lead a company with integrity, empathy and kindness. Compassion has been our key to success for the past 142 years, and the next generation is excited to carry on the legacy.
“Our family has always valued doing the right thing over making a profit,” says Kyle. “If we do what is right and choose to operate our business in a way that aligns with treating people with respect then we know we are successful. To our family success doesn’t equal how profitable we are. Success is earned through being good people and caring about one another on a real and personal level.”