Wilmette, Community

Seeing is believing: A tour of Wayfair in Wilmette ahead of its grand opening

A project in the works for a “long, long while” is on the cusp of its grand debut, and The Record joined other media members and Wayfair leaders for a sneak peek on Wednesday afternoon.

Following nearly 20 years of digital retail success, Wayfair showed off its first physical location — a two-story, 150,000-square-foot store in Wilmette’s Edens Plaza — a week ahead of the grand opening, Thursday, May 23.

The centerpiece of the store is the three-story atrium. | Photo from Wayfair

The location offers three ways to shop, Wayfair officials explained: grab and go, aka the standard retail experience available for about half of the store’s displayed products, officials said; pick and ship, in which customers can buy an item that may not be on-site and receive “fast and free delivery”; and buy online and pickup, explained in the name.

The purchasing options are explained via digital tags near each item and more details are available via a QR code that customers can scan with their phone. Store employees are available to assist customers at all times, officials said during the walkthrough.

“We don’t want it to be overwhelming. We want an easy and approachable experience,” said Barclay Resler, Wayfair’s head of visual merchandising.

Quick background

The north side of Wayfair in Wilmette, the business’s first physical store. | Photo from Wayfair

As first reported by The Record, Wayfair announced in late 2021 its plans to build the company’s first brick-and-mortar store in Wilmette’s Edens Plaza, 3232 Lake Ave. The plans were announced along with the shopping center’s sale to new owners WS Development.

Wayfair has taken over the anchor space left vacant by Carson Pirie Scott in 2018. The design plans approved in 2022, and amended in early 2023, called for the demolition of five storefronts to make way for the store’s entryway plaza on the east side of the building. Developers got approval for a large, north-facing mural and an on-site restaurant, The Porch, in February of this year.

Workers broke ground on the site in the spring of 2023.

The tour

Just inside the entryway of Wayfair in Wilmette. | Photo from Wayfair

Wayfair Wilmette’s main entrance welcomes customers with a sun-filled and playful foyer. The opening message “Hey there, neighbor” is prominently displayed in Wayfair’s trademark purple. A digital screen rotates promotional messages on one side, while the other features oversized housewares and goods — like a toaster and towels — on shelving two stories high.

The store’s impressive variety is quickly evident, but one of its most unique features is housed to the immediate south of the entrance. The Porch restaurant features a menu of handhelds, snack boards and small bites to go with dining tables, couches and bar seats inside and more seating on a front patio. The Porch also offers a variety of beverages, including beer and wine, for a “sip and shop” experience, Resler said.

Wayfair’s in-store restaurant, The Porch, is open during store hours. | Joe Coughlin/The Record North Shore

Living Room, Home Office, Rugs and the Design Studio are among the sections spread across the first floor. Like its online store, Wayfair offers everything from furniture and appliances to wall art and wicker baskets in its first store. Within the departments, interactive features abound, such as the office chair bar and toss-and-test pillow wall, where guests can try their hand at furniture adornment.

The sections are lined along the perimeter of the space. In the center, a 20-by-20-foot digital screen anchors a three-story atrium that welcomes sunlight from 360 degrees of windows above the second floor. Escalators in the space lead guests to and from the second floor.

Upstairs, solutions for children, pets and the kitchen can be found. And more interactive fun awaits. The Shower Experience and Find Your Faucet both allow guests to test water hardware with the push of a button. Then there’s the Dream Center, a store within a store featuring mattresses and pillows ready to be tried out. The space even comes with unique lighting, smells and sounds.

Liza Lefkowski, Wayfair’s vice president of merchandising, in the store’s Dream Center.

What now?

On opening weekend, Thursday-Sunday, May 23-26, Wayfair says guests can expect family-friendly activities and special offers on products, including furniture, home decor, housewares and home improvement products. Wayfair will be open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sunday.

Liza Lefkowski — Wayfair’s vice president of merchandising, proprietary brands and stores — said during the walkthrough that while Wayfair is focused on the opening of the Wilmette location, it has aspirations of a physical-store fleet that is accessible to customers nationwide.

A view of the Living Room department in Wayfair. | Photo by Joe Coughlin/The Record North Shore

That said, Wilmette was a thoughtful choice. The location is near Wayfair’s fulfillment center, enabling efficient delivery and inventory solutions, and Resler said, “Wilmette is a vibrant suburb, filled with young families, and it’s a great community for us to be a part of.”

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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