Dining In

Iconic Forty One Madison prepares a seat for digital guests of the upcoming New York Tabletop Show®.

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Courtesy Forty One Madison

Forty One Madison’s showroom experience allows for social distancing while asserting the institution’s permanence as a fixture of the Flatiron district and the leading institution for tabletop design. “This has taught us the importance of being nimble and ready for anything,” says Kristi Forbes, director and senior vice president for Forty One Madison. And assembled their coterie has. “It is a tight knit community for the industry, building businesses and relationships together. The showrooms are connected and have helped by sharing information and watching over each other’s spaces,” she adds.

Situated in Madison Square Park’s skyline this archetypal modern-style steel and glass structure—designed by famed architecture firm Emery Roth & Sons—has served as one of the world’s premiere destination for luxury tabletop goods since its debut as the New York Merchandise Mart in 1974. It currently boasts more than 90 permanent showrooms and houses over 200 leading brands, manufactures, and vendors. Elevated accoutrements include china, crystal, glassware, flatware, lighting, linens, and artistic objects. The building courses with retailers, interior designers, architects, chefs, restaurateurs, hoteliers, and the likes during their bi-annual New York Tabletop Show, when attendees trek from across the world to participate in dialogue with the industry’s finest.

Courtesy Deshoulieres

However, the upcoming event has adapted to current constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic with a multi-channel production. “In this type of environment we get to be creative in how we reach out to our clients in a more virtual aspect,” says April Durham, PR and studio manager of Rosenthal, one of the building’s brands. This show will welcome in-person visitors by appointment only—with an extended schedule from October 13–20 to accommodate social distancing of pedestrian traffic—as well as online through a virtual hub on 41Madison.com. “They have created and improved their website that includes our catalog, have created a video of the space, and also a 360-degree program so customers can look around and zoom in on specific items,” says Paul Wojcik, CVO of Mottahedeh & Co., another purveyor of fine tabletop goods.

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An immense selection of vases, tableware, and china awaits visitors,
both virtual and in-person, to Forty One Madison. Courtesy Daum

The Virtual New York Tabletop Show will engage a broader community digital features including interactive 3-D showroom tours, webinars, workshops, a digital reading room, and live Instagram feeds featuring a curation of products. While client needs have not noticeably changed, their shopping experiences have—without compromise. “There is less in-person contact but we are able to ship out samples and colorways to assist them, so the method might be different, but the result is the same,” says Wojcik.

And their mission extends beyond dressing tables. Forty One Madison first responded to the challenges faced by its local dining community with the #TableTogether campaign. “Our team is small but mighty and we’ve been able to pivot quickly to step up and rally our network to help the hospitality industry in NYC,” says Forbes. The movement encouraged their followers to showcase the ritual of dining and its inspiring beauty while sheltering in place. Nearly 50 gift cards in total were purchased by Forty One Madison from local restaurants and eateries that could be claimed by Instagram users who submitted a photo of their gathering—posted during the month of April with @41Madison and tagged #TableTogether—upon registering and attending the next New York Tabletop Market.

The appreciation for “tabling together” has seeped into contemporary practice as lifestyle trends see consumers becoming bakers and mixologists at home. While brands are designing durable, functional, and easy-to-use products, their connection with the human experience is paramount. Wojcik points out that something as simple as nostalgic dinnerware can be high impact. “It reminds them of happy gatherings, they are trying to recreate happier times from their life.”

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