Abt Electronics, a sprawling appliance store in the northern Chicago suburb of Glenview, has everything customers could need.
Washers? Check. Dryers? Another check. Dishwashers? They’ve got them.
How about a Dylan’s Candy Bar? That’s right — a licensed Dylan’s boutique inside the appliance store. As of June, they have that, too.
Jon Abt, who runs the 81-year-old institution with his brothers Mike, Rick and Billy, acknowledges most appliance stores don’t pair chocolate bars and gummy candy with refrigerators and home theater systems. But Abt is not the average appliance store.
“If you look at it on paper, it doesn’t fit. But if you come into the store, it really does fit,” Abt said over a fountain bubbling in the store’s atrium. “It really goes well with everything else we do here.”
Founded in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood in 1936 by Abt’s grandparents, David and Jewel Abt, the store has since moved to its 450,000-sq.-ft. location in Glenview. The store’s showroom covers 100,000 sq. ft. alone.
Apart from its sheer size, Abt has built a reputation as one of the premier appliance stores in the country, thanks to a commitment to knowledgeability and customer service. In April 2016, Consumer Reports noted 56,500 survey respondents counted Abt as the top place to buy large appliances for the seventh year in a row. E-commerce behemoth Amazon took the top spot for small appliances.
Jon Abt said earning that praise comes down to developing unique, enjoyable in-store experiences, especially as brick-and-mortar retail continues to dip overall.
“It’s hard to get people in the stores, and you really have to build something for them that’s not only visually appealing, but with the right mix of staff that really knows what they’re talking about,” he said.
Among Abt Electronics’ “visually appealing” attractions is a 7,500-gallon saltwater aquarium in the showroom, which Abt said is the largest privately-owned saltwater aquarium in Illinois. There’s also a 5,381-lb. black granite sphere that floats on 12 lbs. of water pressure, making it so that a three-year-old child can spin it.
Not only do the attractions make store visits special for customers, Abt said, they also entertain children who may not consider appliance shopping as a favorite pastime.
“We’ve got a lot of families that shop here, a lot of people bring their children in here,” he said. “We want them to have just as much fun as their parents.”
What better way to delight kids — and adults — than to put in a candy store? Jon said Abt began working with Dylan’s Candy Bar a year-and-a-half ago after his sweets-loving brother, Rick, visited a Dylan’s Candy Bar location. The Abt brothers added space for Dylan’s in the appliance store’s atrium, which has other shops inside a shop.
“We really like how they present themselves. It’s a great brand,” Abt said of Dylan’s. “They do things in a whimsical, fun way. We thought it would be a good matchup.”
Dylan Lauren, daughter of fashion designer Ralph Lauren, launched the first Dylan’s Candy Bar on New York City’s Upper East Side in 2001, offering “retail-tainment” through brightly-colored candy displays and decorations. She said Dylan’s and Abt share a similar philosophy.
“Both Dylan’s Candy Bar and Abt Electronics in Illinois are more than just stores; we are experiences,” Lauren said. “Whether you’re browsing through a ‘candyland’ of electronics, or our real-life candyland, it’s about having fun and trying something new with your family and friends. We hope guests shopping for the latest gadgets will stop by to indulge in our world of chocolate and sweets.”
Abt’s store is the second Dylan’s Candy Bar location in Chicagoland. In 2015, Dylan’s opened its fifth standalone location in the Tribune Tower on Chicago’s Michigan Ave. The two-floor, 13,000-sq.-ft. store also has a café and bar.
“Now with the establishment of our new store in Glenview, Ill., those living outside the Windy City can get a taste of who we are,” Lauren said.
Though the Abt store was set to have an official grand opening in late August, it was already seeing plenty of traffic when Candy Industry visited earlier that month. So far, customer feedback has been positive, says Dana Borre, manager of Abt’s Dylan’s location.
“I hear ‘what a great idea,’” she said. “The parents love it because now they can bring their kids to shop. It gets them to come here that much easier.”
Jam-packed into the 600-sq.-ft. store are 96 bulk bins and about 500 different products. Dylan’s signature lollipop tree sprouts from the center, and images of candy fill the walls.
Abt said his family’s company collaborated with Dylan’s on the look and feel of the store. He added that through their agreement, Abt purchases candy from Dylan’s, which also gets a cut of the sales.
“We’re super excited to have a store like this within the walls of the building as a whole. It’s an added value to being a customer of Abt, and we’re looking forward to a real long relationship with Dylan’s Candy Bar,” he said.