Montreal Gazette

Home of the pa­pasan chair, that hip­pie-chic clas­sic

- MAX­INE MENDELSSOH­N Austria · Iceland · North America · United States of America · Belgium · Indonesia · California · IKEA · Belarus · Europe · European Union · Nice · Pier 1 Imports, Inc. · HomeSense

Name: Mar­tin Bureau, re­gional man­ager at Pier 1 Im­ports, 4823 Sher­brooke St. W., 514-931-9128. www.pier1.com When I think of Pier 1, the first thing that comes to mind are those wicker pa­pasan chairs.

The pa­pasan chair is one of our icons. We sold over 150,000 just in 2007 and we’ve stocked them since we opened in 1962. We sell them in all our 1,200 stores across North Amer­ica; that’s a lot of pa­pasan chairs. How much do they cost?

The base is $99 for the chair and $249 for the love seat. Pil­low tops range from $80 to $100. They look cozy, but when­ever I’m sit­ting in one I feel like I’m about to tip out of it. Why isn’t the base at­tached to the seat?

The base doesn’t need to be at­tached to the seat be­cause once you’re sit­ting in it your weight an­chors you, so you can for­get about tip­ping over. Rat­tan is more sturdy than you think. In In­done­sia, when they build a sky­scraper, they use scaf­fold­ing made from rat­tan. I can’t think of a more ring­ing en­dorse­ment for stur­di­ness. And if you want to talk about co­zi­ness, all I can say is that I of­ten set­tle in to watch TV or read in my pa­pasan chair and end up nap­ping. It’s too com­fort­able to stay awake in. All right, but now that I think of it, I of­ten see pa­pasan chairs at garage sales. Are they more of a stu­dent or first-apart­ment type of pur­chase?

The fact that peo­ple re­sell them at garage sales just means they last a long time. They’re pop­u­lar with peo­ple set­ting up their first apart­ments be­cause they’re light­weight. The first Pier 1 Im­ports store opened in Cal­i­for­nia in 1962. On your web­site it says the store catered to hip­pie baby boomers and fea­tured in­cense and bean­bag chairs. What of that orig­i­nal feel­ing re­mains?

Our eclec­tic home-decor style hasn’t changed; I think unique­ness is our trade­mark. I have to chal­lenge you on that. You have some great pieces and un­usual finds here, but I don’t think your wares are so unique. Oth­ers like Win­ners HomeSense, even Maxi and smaller shops like Folk­lore, down the street, now have very sim­i­lar hip­pie-chic fur­nish­ings.

I know other stores try to repli­cate our style, but we are the orig­i­nal. We set the pace. I’ll be frank: We op­er­ate in the same world mar­ket as other stores, our buy­ers might travel the same paths as their buy­ers, but we do our best to stay true to Pier 1 style. There are trends that ev­ery store picks up on, but many of our prod­ucts are oneof-a-kind. I mean, our pil­lows, for ex­am­ple: You won’t find the same pil­low at another store. We de­sign and man­u­fac­ture them. I can’t guar­an­tee that stores don’t copy our de­signs; no one can guar­an­tee that. We’re not Zone, we’re not Folk­lore, down the street, we’re not Brault & Martineau or even IKEA. We have our own style. Fine, then. You prob­a­bly pio- neered the eclec­tic glob­ally in­spired, funky home-fur­nish­ings look, but what makes you spe­cial now?

I think the big­gest dif­fer­ence is that our staff aren’t just sales­peo­ple. They’re de­sign-ori­ented in­di­vid­u­als who know every­thing about our prod­ucts. They can help with every­thing from de­sign to de­liv­ery. So what’s the best bar­gain in store right now?

I think this rat­tan arm­chair has the best price-qual­ity ra­tio. It’s not cheap – it’s $249 – but this is hand-wo­ven rat­tan. At a cer­tain point you have to think about that. It’s not made by a ma­chine; there’s hand de­tail­ing in the weave. An arm­chair like this with a pais­ley pil­low can re­ally an­chor a room. What’s the big trend in home decor now?

I’d say that the big­gest thing right now is the mix-and-match look. Peo­ple don’t buy sets any­more. We show din­ing ta­bles with chairs, but peo­ple want to choose their own chairs. And they might even want two chairs like this and two like that; it’s a more dy­namic way of dec­o­rat­ing your home. Our cus­tomers spend an av­er­age of 50 min­utes in our store. That’s much longer than an av­er­age store walk­through. I’d like to think it’s be­cause Pier 1 shop­ping is like go­ing on a trea­sure hunt. So where are most of these trea­sures made?

Our buy­ers im­port goods from more than 50 coun­tries in Europe and Asia. In many cases you must be deal­ing with sup­pli­ers in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. Do you take any steps to make sure your prod­ucts are pro­duced in proper con­di­tions?

Ab­so­lutely. We have tight con­tracts and in­spec­tors who reg­u­larly make rounds. On your web­site, you claim to be a so­cially con­scious com­pany that con­ducts busi­ness with per­sonal and pro­fes­sional in­tegrity. It’s a nice thing to say, but how does it trans­late to real life here in the store?

We’re ded­i­cated to sup­port­ing the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity; af­ter all, that’s where we im­port most of our mer­chan­dise from. Since 1985, we’ve con­trib­uted more than $37 mil­lion to phil­an­thropic or­ga­ni­za­tions like UNICEF. It’s not just some­thing we do to make our­selves feel bet­ter or look good, it’s ac­tu­ally im­por­tant to us. And it’s im­por­tant to our cus­tomers, too. All right, so you give to chari- ties. What about steps to safe­guard or im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment?

We have a line of 100-per-cent re­cy­cled prod­ucts made from re­pro­cessed or waste ma­te­ri­als; stuff like re­cy­cled news­pa­per bas­kets and glass­ware. And don’t for­get that wicker made from bam­boo and sea­grass is a rapidly re­new­able re­source; it grows faster than trees, so in a way it’s more eco friendly to buy a rat­tan chair than a wood chair. All this do-gooder stuff is what Pier 1 is all about. Don’t for­get we grew up in the 1960s, with the be­gin­ning of the whole en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly hip­pie move­ment. Those ideals are part of our roots, even if we don’t have long hair and peace neck­laces any­more.

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 ?? PHO­TOS: GRA­HAM HUGHES THE GAZETTE ?? Martin Bureau in a pa­pasan chair in the West­mount Pier 1 Im­ports: “Rat­tan is more sturdy than you think. In In­done­sia, when they build a sky­scraper, they use scaf­fold­ing made from rat­tan. I can’t think of a more ring­ing en­dorse­ment for stur­di­ness.”
PHO­TOS: GRA­HAM HUGHES THE GAZETTE Martin Bureau in a pa­pasan chair in the West­mount Pier 1 Im­ports: “Rat­tan is more sturdy than you think. In In­done­sia, when they build a sky­scraper, they use scaf­fold­ing made from rat­tan. I can’t think of a more ring­ing en­dorse­ment for stur­di­ness.”

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