A Vij5 Ambassador is, just like us, a big fan of the Vij5 collection. We are not talking about just any point of sale, but about a shop where they know a little bit more about our products. The lines between an ambassador and Vij5 are short, so he or she can tell you everything about the Vij5 collection!
What makes these ambassadors share their love of our products? Arjan talked to Christophe Verbeke, our Vij5 ambassador in Belgium, to find out. Are you curious about the whole conversation? Then (also) listen to the podcast (in Dutch).
Text: Daniëlle van de Haterd (Staaldraad Tekstschrijver)
Photography: Vij5 & PIET Moodshop
Christophe has shops that operate under the name PIET Moodshop. This name is a reference to the street where the first shop was established, the Sint-PIETersnieuwstraat. Christoph is very clear about why he is committed to supporting Vij5. 'We sell the Vij5 collection well, so it has contributed to the success of the shop. It is with good reason that we have been ambassadors for eight or nine years now.'
After his first shop, Christophe opened a second one in Ghent followed by one in Antwerp. The latter is a construction that includes a concept store and a restaurant. In a storefront location, Christophe looks for contrasts. His first shop for example is located in an old grocery store. It is a building with history, filled with contemporary Belgian and Dutch design items.
PIET home in Ghent is located in an old grocery store.
Christophe's love of contrasts is evident from the fact that his three shops have completely different identities. 'I don't believe in copy-paste. You cannot copy the vibe you create in one place to another. Every building is different and requires an appropriate interpretation. For example, our second shop in Ghent is very sleek whereas the one in Antwerp is chic with high ceilings. The nice thing is that each branch appeals to a different public.'
"Customers don't come to us to choose between ten coffee tables, they come for a specific item or a specific designer."Christophe Verbeke - PIET Moodshop
Different audience or not, in each of the three shops Christophe sells the products of Vij5. This has everything to do with the fact that he is a fan of the design and the philosophy behind it. 'Customers don't come to us to choose between ten coffee tables, they come for a specific item or a specific designer.'
Connecting with the city where Christophe opens a shop is important to him. In making a choice, he certainly doesn't take any chances. 'It is important for me to know how a city is put together, which neighborhoods there are and how PIET Moodshop fits in. If I don't have any roots myself, I'll attract someone who does; you have to be able to anchor yourself.'
There are plenty of ambitions. Somewhere on the wish list is a shop in Brussels 'But that is not so easy. Brussels is a city where people speak half Dutch, half French. The neighborhoods are also very different, so the question is in which one you will settle. If I go for Brussels, I want to find a cooperation partner who is already present there. If you want to grow, you have to be able to build new networks.'
Overarching his three physical shops, Christophe has a webshop. When this was built 8 years ago, it was based on a single shop. Due to the growth of recent years, it no longer quite suffices. 'In the course of this year, a completely new website is therefore planned that will enable us to indicate which products can be found in which shop. At the moment, there is still some confusion about this; as I said, we don't have everything everywhere.'
'We were very lucky that we already had a webshop because it came in very handy during corona time. It really exploded, we even had to move our warehouse to a bigger location!'
"Atmosphere and friendliness are important principles at PIET Moodshop. You are always welcomed here with a smile."Christophe Verbeke - PIET Moodshop
As an entrepreneur, Christophe - just like Vij5- wants to tell a story. 'The danger is that in times of growth you sometimes get too caught up in the operational part of a business. You have to try to survive, and that has worked well, but now it is time to pick up my strength again, which is telling stories.'
Atmosphere and friendliness are basic principles for PIET Moodshop, and this will not change if it is up to Christophe. 'Despite all the shifts in the market, people will always come to a shop for inspiration and a smile. We are not going to prioritize our online story too much, it is more a portal to enter.'
"My customers are interested in extras like a story. I look for special things, but try to make it accessible by choosing affordable products."Christophe Verbeke - PIET Moodshop
Piet Moodshop started with selling accessories, later also furniture, and if it is up to Christophe, the next step will be giving interior advice. In his own shops, he has shown that he masters the art of fitting out. He is therefore not only thinking of private projects but also of professional, larger assignments. 'If someone asks me to furnish a restaurant, I will be happy to do so. In order to draw more attention to this, an important function is reserved for the new webshop/site.'
The products that Christophe sells attract a broad public. What his customers - who range from medical students to established architects - have in common is their love of art, culture, architecture and fashion. They are interested in extras such as the story behind a product. Christophe focuses on a niche market but consciously chooses not to position himself in the expensive high-end brands. 'I look for special things, but try to make it accessible by choosing affordable products.' He finds this combination in the Vij5 collection, among others.
Arjan invites Christophe to visit the Vij5 showroom in Eindhoven again if the rules permit it. He, in turn, suggests that his entire team comes along so that they can convey the story behind the products even better to potential customers.
And so it becomes clear once again why Christophe is a Vij5 ambassador.
*This interview took place at a time when a visit to Belgium was permitted within the corona rules in force at the time.