5 minute read

Manuel Bernaschek ☆ Purveyor of YVRs Ultra-Luxury Retail

Manuel Bernaschek: Of Lessons Learned & Living Life Well

Poggio Ai Segugi / Stefano Ricci Estate
Image provided by Manuel Bernaschek
The Ricci Estate at night
Image provided by Manuel Bernaschek

Having the courage to build the best life for your family is something that Manuel Bernaschek holds in his heart. From humble beginnings, he is a man who has been willing to do what it took to create a rewarding and purposeful life for his family.

It was through hard work and perseverance, he built himself up from a sales associate in a music store to the well-traveled purveyor of some of the most desired brands in the world.

His entrepreneurial instinct was piqued when customers seeking pianos began asking about the Italian-made Fazioli. After securing an investor to bring the brand to Vancouver, Bernaschek traveled to Italy to meet with the company's founder Paolo Fazioli, where his tenacity paid off and a deal was struck.

SHOWCASE PIANOS IS BORN

Bernaschek with BIG Architect Lorenz Krisai at the Fazioli Pianoforti factory discussing new Westbank piano.
Image provided by Manuel Bernaschek
Paolo Fazioli Signing the latest creation at the Pianoforti Factory
Image provided by Manuel Bernaschek

Together with his wife Judy, he launched Showcase Pianos. Within the month they had sold their first Fazioli. Not that sales came easily, though; it took hard work and diligence. Remarking on a story about the Shangri- La Hotel, he says, "I wanted a Fazioli in that hotel, so I set about contacting the management, but they wouldn't take my calls." After what he claims was over 80 unreturned calls, emails and personal visits (often with chocolates in hand), he finally got through to the owner of the hotel. Since then, the hotel group has purchased many Fazioli's, and Showcase Pianos is recognized as the top-selling Fazioli dealers in the world, which also sells its fair share of excellent European brands like Seiler, Grotrian, and C. Bechstein.

Bernaschek explains his success with a modest grin: "Since we founded Showcase Pianos in 2007, we have sold well over 100 Fazioli pianos - which is the most costly line of pianos in the world. Through it, we have met some of the most amazing people in town, many of which would continue to do more business with me if they had the need, but most don't need more than one or two pianos."

DISCOVERING STEFANO RICCI

Private VIP Event at the Stefano Ricci Villa.
Image provided by Manuel Bernaschek
Stefano Ricci and Manuel Bernaschek - both wearing Stefano Ricci.
Image provided by Manuel Bernaschek
The Stefano Ricci Villa prepared for the evenings guests.
Image provided by Manuel Bernaschek

Some years ago, during a trip to Italy to visit the Fazioli factory, Bernaschek happened across a hotel window display showcasing neckties made by Stefano Ricci. "I saw this hand-pleated tie and fell in love with it. So, with my wife, I walked in and bought one. It was about 400 euros at the time." He made it a point to return to Stefano Ricci stores each time he was in Italy, and eventually, he elected to seek the Ricci family out.

Bernaschek planned to adopt a similar strategy to Fazioli, eager to be the first to bring a quality Italian brand to the Vancouver market. The Ricci's made him work for it, however, offering him the right to open a store if he agreed to carry the entire line. After a handshake deal with an investment partner went awry, Bernaschek opened his eagle head-adorned storefront with his new partners, the Ricci's themselves.

"Stefano Ricci has the strictest standards for every aspect of the operation, which I find very impressive. I got to appreciate this more through a few experiences before we opened the store.

"For example, the head office sent out their top visual merchandizing expert from Italy to come to our store to place all the items in their perfect position.

"But, the gentleman would not leave the store until he had first sent the photos to Mr. Ricci himself, who was waiting to examine them before giving his approval. Mr. Ricci wrote back saying that he could see a wrinkle in one of the shirts displayed in one of the main windows!"

Opening Stefano Ricci was a strategic business move by Bernaschek. When asked about the reasoning behind taking such a significant risk of taking on the responsibility of a second luxury brand, Bernaschek reflected.

"I thought that it would help to have another brand that was equally exclusive and luxurious but was at a lower price point than a $150,000 piano. The Stefano Ricci brand is very exclusive and ultra-high quality. I see a great amount of cross over between the two businesses."

The Kengo Kuma Fazioli piano at Unwritten Exhibition at Oakridge Centre | Westbank 
Image by Helen Siwak

He further explains, "that people don't mind paying a higher price for something that has some clearly identifiable superiority to other products. In the case of both Fazioli and Stefano Ricci, it is immediately apparent that higher quality materials and workmanship were involved in their production."

In his private office in the Stefano Ricci boutique, Bernaschek recalls the struggles. "It isn't easy, you know. People think, look at him, the high roller. They don't know how tough it is to make this work. They don't always understand the life of an entrepreneur."

The Butterfly Fazioli piano at the Westbank Fight for Beauty exhibition at the Fairmont Pacific Rim. 
Image provided by Manuel Bernaschek