The Genteel
November 24, 2017
Home

Business

The exterior of the Elte show room in Toronto. Source: homestars.com.

Léon Tenenbaum's beginnings are not particularly unique for a Canadian immigrant. In 1919, he opened a store in Paris and sold imported rugs; after fleeing France with his family during World War II, he came to Toronto and brought his business with him. 95 years later and his business is still thriving, now under the leadership of Tenenbaum's grandson and two great-grandsons. 

Elte show room

The rug department in the Elte show room.
Image courtesy of Tara MacInnis.

To this day, the founder's business ideals stand true in his successors. "My great-grandfather loved the idea of bringing the most beautiful products from around the world to his store, and that love has extended four generations through our family business," says Andrew Metrick, the younger of Tenenbaum's great grandsons, when speaking to The Genteel.

Since opening its doors in Toronto in the 1940s, Elte Home and Carpet has grown into so much more than just a rug importer. The new 150,000 square foot show room, which opened in the spring of last year, houses Elte's vast selection of home wares - everything from lighting to bedding.

Despite changing space and stock, the importance of strong family values has remained a core principle of Elte, which takes its name from its founder's initials. 

Being a family business is engrained in our company's culture," says Andrew to The Genteel. "We live and breathe what we do and we are part of almost every decision. If we wouldn't put something in our home, we wouldn't sell it to you. There are plenty of corporations out there who do a fine job but you rarely see a board of directors take the time to call you should something go wrong. That's what a family business does. It's in our blood."

Andrew, 26, is Elte's furniture buyer, while his older brother Jamie, 29, selects the store's rugs. They are constantly looking for the design industry's latest trends and travel constantly around the globe to find them. Only two weeks into the year and Andrew already has a fully booked schedule that includes trips to New York, Singapore, Indonesia, Italy, and Belgium.

Being a family business is engrained in our company's culture [...] we live and breathe what we do and we are part of almost every decision.

He speaks with passion about his favourite pieces currently in the store, including a dining chair inspired by a 1960s Ferrari seat, Elte's Artisan Trunk Collection, and an imported line of wood pieces from Indonesia.

"I'm really excited about our new Petrified Wood Collection, but to call it 'new' is sort of misleading because this collection is actually millions of years in the making," says Andrew. "This collection of accent tables features pieces of wood that come from ancient Indonesian forests and have been buried underground for millions of years. Over time, through the process of fossilisation, the wood turned into stone and the result is truly spectacular."

Jamie's passion is, of course, for rugs. He still works with the same suppliers that his grandfather used to ensure they continue to bring beautiful and functional rugs to Elte.

The Silk Orchid collection is one of the latest Jamie found in India. Each rug is unique and hand woven from the unraveled silk of vintage saris. The softness of the Indian dresses is not lost when they are reborn as rugs - they are luxurious, but still feel durable enough to withstand generations of wear.

"You really have to see them in person to appreciate just how beautiful and ornate they are," says Andrew, when talking about the Silk Orchid rugs exclusive to Elte. "And it only took a dozen trips to India over the course of a few years to make it all happen."

Silk Orchid rug.
Image courtesy of Elte.

Aside from sourcing rugs in India, Elte also sponsors a school in Bhadohi, a rug-making village in the South Asian country. They teach the women there a marketable skill, like sewing, and use micro-lending programs to help them buy the items they need to sustain themselves and their skill.

It is clear that the Metrick family cares about more than just the bottom line. They care about the well-being of the people they work with - something that runs right through to the sales associates on the show room's floor.

"We are a family business and that means we treat our customers and our employees like family. Expressions like 'It's not personal, it's business' are thrown out the window - it's definitely personal," explains Andrew.

Stunning and carefully curated pieces are Elte's bread and butter, but they will always remain second to their core family values. These values represent what Léon Tenenbaum built the business on and are the foundation for the Metrick brothers iteration of the business.

"We're working on several exciting initiatives over the next few years but when you boil it down, Elte is really about two things: products and service," says Andrew of his plans for Elte.

"My family and I travel the world looking for expressive pieces that are on trend and classically inspired. Continuing this and providing our clients with excellent service is what you can expect to see from us."

Related Article: Ikea Eat Your Heart Out

Related Article: United Colours of Cool

Socialize
  
Comments

THE GENTEEL Weekly

Sign up to receive a weekly dispatch from The Genteel.



About Us

The Genteel unearths the forces shaping global fashion and design through the lens of business, culture, society and best kept secrets. 

More about us

Our Contributors

A worldwide collective of contributors currently form The Genteel. On a daily basis our team dispatches thought-provoking and insightful articles from the streets of Oslo, Toronto, Beirut, Moscow, United Arab Emirates, Seoul and beyond.