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Generation Next

The fifth generation of the Chowns are bringing fresh ideas to the hardware industry.

Left to right: Dornbracht kitchen faucets; Nathanael Chown, Marketing Manager (left) and Kyle Chown, CEO + President (right); Fantini bathroom faucet; Classic Brass knobs.

Last year was a banner year for Chown Hardware.

Not only did the company celebrate its 140th anniversary, but the fifth generation of the Chown family underscored its place as one of the most innovative purveyors of luxury kitchen and bath fixtures and lighting in the Northwest and beyond.

Founded in Portland (with additional stores in Bellevue, Washington, and most recently Seattle), Chown Hardware stocks a curated collection of architectural hardware, plumbing, and lighting from more than two dozen high-end brands, including Waterworks, Rocky Mountain Hardware, and Dornbracht. In addition to product, Chown has an event space, The Eleanor (named after the fifth generation’s grandmother and adjacent to its Portland headquarters), which the company uses to host community-focused events and gatherings for the local design scene, believing that bringing people together fosters innovation, collaboration, and connection. (“She Built This City,” a 2019 panel dedicated to Eleanor, honored women who broke into male-dominated industries).

Left to right: Waterworks cabinetry and hardware; innovative design events "She Built The City" panel discussion series and "Meet Me in the Bathroom" after party held during Design Week Portland.

Looking to guide the company through an era with a rapidly changing economy and technologies, Chown’s forward-thinking approach to product (it’s often the first retailer to carry up-to-the-minute innovative pieces) and marketing (last year’s irreverently themed “Meet Me in the Bathroom” party featured karaoke and a bubble bath–themed photo booth) sets it paces beyond the rest when it comes to brand recognition. “Community is a very strong emphasis for us, and we like to do things in a manner that will be remembered long after an event or a sale,” says marketing manager Nathanael Chown.

The new Seattle showroom, designed by Weedman Design Partners and built out by Roberts Group, is sophisticated and modern, making use of materials such as imported Italian tile to give customers a gallery-like experience as they shop. In addition to events, the younger generation of Chowns puts an emphasis on supporting local charities, as giving back is central to the company’s mission statement. For its 140th anniversary, the company worked with a Portland nonprofit, Color Outside the Lines, to invite children in the foster care system to paint a mural on the wall of one of Chown’s office buildings.

“Our core values don’t live in a dusty closet somewhere in the building,” says company CEO and president Kyle Chown. “We live them, speak them, and act on them daily. Each generation has put its stamp on the company’s history book. This group is no different. We aren’t looking to make drastic changes, but we are looking at more and better ways to understand our clients’ needs, wants, and challenges and to give them what they want in a unique and compelling way.”


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