The inspiration for Baan Homeor simply Baan, as it is knowncame from Kevin Tang's many visits to the enormous outdoor markets of Bangkok and Chiang Mai Thailand. Locals and savvy international travelers bargain with vendors for goods, ranging from antiques to live animals while baking in the tropical heat and humidity.
Tang was struck by the unique handcrafted products, including teak furniture, glassware and lighting that he spotted overseasand his language skills came into play when he began to bargain for many Asian-inspired home products.
Baan, which opened in August 2006, is now one of the most unique home-furnishings stores in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood.
Baan has since expanded into original artwork, antiques and spa products. "We actually stumbled upon the spa products sort of by accident," Tang said. "I have a friend in Thailand who was, and still is, selling the products over there. Baan is now the distributor in the U.S. for Soap-n-Scent products, which you cannot get anywhere else in the U.S."
Baan offers more than 40 exotic soap scents, all handmade in Thailand. Scents range from banana, coconut and pineapple to Tang's personal favorite, Triple Thai Rice, not to mention favorites such as Refreshing Cucumber and Lavender Peppermint. Bars of soap at Baan start at $5, and the store offers goods, such as artwork, for as much as $3,500. Baan has even hosted multiple annual local artist showings in the past.
"When people walk into the store, I think they often are surprised at the calmness, sort of a Zen-like feeling … and the amazing smells [ from the spa products, ] " Tang said.
"I have a technology and consulting background, but those [ fields ] took me away from my creative side. This [ store ] has brought it back."
Baan has an array of hand-blown, one-of-a-kind glasses and glass goods, which Tang said have been very popular.
"It's been a challenge owning a small business in this economy, definitely," Tang said. "But we're surviving, staying strong and continuing to grow and expand. We've grown since 2006 at a maintainable pace that is fitting with the economy and the tastes of
Name: Kevin Tang
Relationship status: In a relationship
Land of birth: Laos
Has lived in: Thailand, Canada and the United States
Hobbies: Traveling, eating spicy food, horror movies, tennis and running.
It's a fact: Came to the United States in June, 1997, from Toronto for a technology job and was supposed to be here for only a year. He's stayed ever since.
Photos by Ross Forman