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TO up the ante for interaction at its newly opened retail store in Chicago on the eve of a major kitchen and bath fixture exhibition, fixture manufacturer Kohler Co. invited 175 guests, primarily members of the media, to two hours of spa-inspired relaxation in April. Kohler turned its spa products into entertainment for the night by presenting new items in captivating ways.

No decor embellishment was needed for the event, notes Kohler project coordinator Audra DeSombre. “Our Kohler store and {adjoining} Ann Sacks {tile} showroom are both so beautiful, to do anything extra would have been a dishonor to the spaces,” she says. Instead, the showrooms served as event showcases, allowing guests to interact with the various products on display. For example, the “energy” station — serving fruit, veggie and energy smoothies — was positioned in front of windows overlooking downtown Chicago.

Chicago-based caterer Limelight emphasized the clean, crisp spa feeling of the new products with light bites. Clean white tablecloths and Lucite towers set off menu items such as chilled spring pea soup and skewered saku sesame tuna with avocado-wasabi cream. A wrap station served appetizer-size wraps such as a romaine lettuce wrap with pulled ginger chicken salad and toasted almonds. The soup shooter station offered warm and chilled soups; flavors such as smooth gazpacho and potato-leek came with dainty accompaniments including Gruyere toast points and tea sandwiches filled with cucumber and cream cheese

While the on-site preparation was difficult — ongoing renovations at the building next door meant catering staff had to dodge construction crews while prepping food in what Limelight principal Marguerite Lytle describes as “a hallway” — the food was simple yet the presentation “phenomenal,” DeSombre says.


The fresh spa cuisine put guests in the right frame of mind to interact with both the new retail venue and the new kitchen, bath and tile products Kohler was launching at the trade show. As guests moved through the showroom, they examined the new products while enjoying spa services, including massages, manicures and glycolic hand peels.

Custom-made ice sculptures, carved to resemble Kohler's sinks and faucets, were surrounded by “ember” and “cane sugar” martinis. The deep red and creamy white hues of the martinis gave a sneak peek at Kohler's new colors. Sinks in the new colors took on the role of serving bowls, filled with Kohler “Terrapins” — chocolate “turtle” candy served at the Kohler resort in Kohler, Wis.

To encourage maximum interaction with the venue and products, local Chicago group Club Lounge scattered its four members throughout the space, with the band communicating with headsets. Lytle describes the music and its presentation as “a very cool statement.”

Kohler Co. 444 Highland Drive, Kohler, WI 53044; 920/457-4441, Limelight 2000 N. Racine Ave., Chicago, IL 60614; 773/883-3080,

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