The Bass & Bennett Story
Seeds of an Idea: The initial idea for B&B came from a trip I took to India in 2008. This trip was primarily a vacation. On this trip I did a number of things including:
- Touring architectural salvage yards
- Visiting a number of contemporary art galleries in Delhi
- Visited a collective for widowed women weavers that make and sell traditional Rajasthani textiles
- Took a 26 hour train ride to Jaisalmer, a desert city in Rajasthan that’s located near the Pakistani border (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/endangered-site-jaisalmer-fort-india-52453028/)
- Rented a motorcycle and rode into the Himalyian mountains (going over one of the most dangerous roads in the word, the rotung pass)
While visiting Rajasthan, I fell in love with the architecture, culture, history, and colors, and food. (https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/rajasthan-architecture-1375784172-1, https://www.ohmyrajasthan.com/architecture-of-rajasthan-artifacts-features, https://www.architecturaldigest.in/content/these-exquisite-heritage-doors-of-rajasthan-come-in-all-hues-of-the-rainbow/, http://www.happytravellingfeet.com/colors-of-rajasthan-a-journey-through-photos/). Upon returning to Delhi, I found that authentic architectural elements can be found for purchase. Additionally, I found contemporary artists and crafts people that were designing and making one of a kind contemporary furniture unlike what I’d seen anywhere else. While I’d been to India many times prior to this trip, this was when I fell in love and vowed to someday structure my life so that I could continue to kind of travel and connection that I discovered and enjoyed on that trip.
Idea Formulation: Upon my return to the states, I started to think about how I started to explore ideas that would allow me to have such experiences with increased regularity. At the time, I was traveling a lot for work, but the nature of my job, while it enabled the travel, did not often allow enough time or freedom to develop a deeper connection to the region, people, and culture.
The idea that I kept returning to, was to combine a lifelong love of design (if I had it to do over again I would have become an architect), history, and culture, by finding, sourcing, and importing unique furniture, crafts, and home décor, that are not only reflect my varied tastes, but also somehow embody the history and culture of the region. This would allow me to explore areas, discover what is unique and interesting about the region and people, and bring these stories and culture back to the US to share with people here.
To me this idea seemed to tick all of the boxes. It would provide me with a means to get below the surface in a given area and get to know the region in a way that I wouldn’t as a tourist (I’m the kind of person that favors exploring back alleys and out of the way places over the famous sites), learn about the local techniques, and history as they pertain to furniture/craft making, discover cool artifacts that are not readily available in the US, and help to create a connection and awareness of the region and people that many Americans would otherwise not get to experience.
Company Formation: Bass and Bennett was formed in 2018. While the idea had been germinating for some number of years, life got in the way (marriage, divorce, kids, job, etc). In 2018, I found myself being less and less enamored with technology (my chosen profession – I’m a professor in Software Engineering at CMU), and in need of some activity that would help restore the passion that had been missing for some time. At this time I had also reconnected with a childhood friend that I had lost touch with. This friend, while having a lust for adventure, had not had the opportunity to travel at all. Thinking it would be fun to take him to India for his first trip (he had been on an airplane once at that point and largely had not traveled outside of Pittsburgh). I decided to use this as an opportunity to start the business I’d been thinking about for all these years. Even did go along on that first trip (and has developed a strong desire to continue traveling as a result), and was initially involved in Bass & Bennett (long enough to lend his name to the effort), but ultimately decided the time commitment was more than he was able to manage at this stage in life.
In the early days we did form the company, buy our first container (that would end up arriving mid January), rent warehouse space, etc. Michele (my wife) has also been involved since the beginning. Bringing her experience as an event designer and artist to Bass and Bennett, Michele has been instrumental in helping to shape the public face of Bass and Bennett (let’s face it, her face is more appealing than the alternatives!). After operating for 6 months as a wholesaler, we craved more of a connection to the end consumer (we do love the people we have met in the industry and remain friends with our early wholesale customers) and decided to switch from wholesale to retail.
Around this time a new partner, Mike Lee, joined Bass and Bennett. Mike brings a wealth of marketing, finance, and general business experience to the team (and has wasted no time in bringing his talents to bear on Bass and Bennett).
Our first weekend opening our warehouse to the public took place in September.