In the past, downtown outside of the 9-to-5 shuffle was more like a scene from 28 Days Later—lots of vacant cityscape, if not flesh-eating people. Luckily for the living, that has been seriously changing, and one of the recent additions to the slowly growing list of newly opened shops is luxury electronics retailer Bang & Olufsen.
In May, the Danish company opened one of its 50 U.S. locations in the former Bankhardt’s space. Bang & Olufsen specializes in full-service, highly-customized audio and video products and installation. They’ve been spreading simple, intuitively-designed technology across the globe since 1925, when they gave the world the first one-touch turntable. The retailer currently boasts 1,500 stores worldwide—and it’s the only personal electronics provider to have a permanent display at MoMA.
Naturally, these facts raise the age-old question: Why Cincinnati? “There is a large Bang & Olufsen fan base in the Midwest,” says Per Bokmand, the manager at the Fourth Street store. “Many people here have our old products and want them updated, but don’t want to drive to Chicago. We’ve had a great response so far.”
What Bang & Olufsen provides is an experience. You don’t walk in, grab something off a hook, say “I guess?”, and walk out with a plastic box and an instruction bible. It’s evident that beautiful, sophisticated technology honed to your desired experience is their top priority: just look at the mid-century modern–esque A9 orb-like speaker, or the BeoPlay H6 headphones, covered in New Zealand cowhide. This is a polite way of saying that you’re going to need a little scratch if you’re planning to upgrade your sound system.
It’s worth noting that Bang & Olufsen spaces are not stores, but showrooms. In this case, it’s a gorgeous one. The 2,200-square-foot room has the original tin ceilings, crown molding, and hardwood floors. On the walls, high-end electronics mix with paintings from the Cincinnati Art Club—all of which are for sale, with commission on the latter going solely to the artist. “We place a lot of importance on aesthetics, so it only seemed natural to showcase local artists in our showroom,” said Bokmand.
Bright space, local art, pricey technology, and attractive Danish design—and people—to guide you the whole way: all of the ingredients necessary for urban revival. Well, most of them.
Originally published in the December 2014 issue