- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2008

Bang & Olufsen will open a 1,400-square-foot showroom on 14th Street in Logan Circle this week, where it will showcase a 50-inch, $21,500 plasma TV that takes pictures of itself to sharpen its image. The Danish purveyor of ultra-high-end electronics is a welcome addition to the gentrifying Logan neighborhood, which has been working to improve the way it is viewed and struggling to get back on its feet since the riots of 1968.

Bang & Olufsen’s first boutique in downtown Washington joins existing stores in Bethesda and McLean.

“The character of the neighborhood in Logan Circle has distinguished itself as the loft-style condominium area, which I feel is very compatible with the Bang & Olufsen aesthetic,” said Martin Chin, owner of the Logan Circle store. “We want to try to build a design destination on 14th Street.”

The “design destination” is a vast contrast to the 14th Street of the past that included race riots in the wake of the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King.

D.C. Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, is pleased to see the recent turnaround in his neighborhood.

“The overall thing that has worked was to create an environment where people feel safe and where businesses feel they can make money,” Mr. Evans said. “I think it’s a very good thing for our city, and it’s now bringing people back after the riots drove them away.”

B&O; aims its product lineup at households that earn more than $200,000 a year. Zean Nielsen, president of Bang & Olufsen America Inc., said that buying a B&O; product is more than just about the product itself.

“This is a lifestyle decision, whether or not you want to surround yourself with beautiful design furniture and Bang & Olufsen equipment,” Mr. Nielsen said.

In addition to automatic color management, B&O;’s new plasma television line includes an ambient light sensor that detects how bright the room is and adjusts the brightness of the screen accordingly, to reduce strain on eyes.

“It’s all about adjusting the technology for the customer and not the other way around,” said Monica Gartner, a spokeswoman for B&O.; “We want to make an impression that lasts.”

The BeoVision 9 is the company’s top of the line home-entertainment center, featuring a 50-inch plasma screen for $21,500. Bang & Olufsen offers audio products as well, including speakers that range from $990 to $21,950.

The BeoCom 2 home phone costs $1,100 while providing a design that Bang & Olufsen says makes a statement even when it’s not in use.

The $160 A8 headphones are another popular product.

With the current economic turmoil in the United States, some might wonder whether now is the best time to open a high-end electronics store.

Mr. Nielsen does not see the current economic situation as an insurmountable problem. He says that the high-end and low-end markets are growing, while the mid-level markets are being squeezed.

“The typical Bang & Olufsen customers … aren’t typically the ones suffering from gas prices and basic commodities that are going up in price,” Mr. Nielsen said. “Bang & Olufsen has been around since 1925 so we’ve seen a lot of cycles over the years, and this is a long-term plan.”

Shawn DuBravac, resident economist for the Consumer Electronics Association, thinks the luxurious showroom will do well.

“I would think the demographics in D.C. bode well for anything in luxury lifestyle,” Mr. DuBravac said. “With a highly educated work force and unemployment well below national average and other urban areas, it doesn’t surprise me that they would choose D.C. to expand.”

Mr. DuBravac noted that flat-panel television sales have increased 40 percent from last year because people are opting to save money by enjoying a better home experience rather than going out.

The Logan Circle Bang & Olufsen showroom will host its grand opening Thursday to start what Mr. Chin hopes will be a long and prosperous partnership with Bang & Olufsen.

“It’s a long-term plan and economies have cycles, but we’re here for the long haul,” Mr. Chin said. “Hopefully we’ll get through the bad times and we’ll be here when the times are good.”

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