Not only are industrial-type products considered more efficient and effective, they're also thought of as the ultimate adult toy.
The only downside is that they can go out of favor if too many consumer product companies flood the market with versions of the professional model.
"People always want what someone else doesn't have. You're talking about a very select strata that wants a status symbol," a New York interior designer told The Wall Street Journal. She's installing the currently hot Traulsen industrial refrigerators in clients' kitch-ens, the kind with see-through glass front doors.
But, as the Journal says, "no sooner does an upscale home feature become common than the race is on to find its even trendier successor. The chic item of today has a way of being copied and popping up in the tract home of tomorrow." Sub Zero refrigerators have been pushed aside by Traulsens among the au courant. But my wife Merrilee tells me the Sub Zero 700 series now offers refrigerator or freezer drawers away from the main unit.
Sub Zero says its system "is not intended just for the kitchen. Think about refrigeration in the den, family room, master bedroom suite or an entertainment area." Yeah, think about that, Traulsen.
The other new kitchen item that's destined to be coveted by the rich and famous is the Miele dishwasher, which doesn't look or sound like a dishwasher because it has an internal control panel and is totally silent. Merrilee points out that the other hot trend, running contrary to the commercial equipment trend, is to design a kitchen that doesn't look like a kitchen. People are buying antique cupboards and furniture and using them in place of traditional kitchen cabinets.
The Journal article said other hot-ticket products, taken from the business-to-business world, are personal car-wash systems, complete with brushes, soap pads and blowers ("I call it my automotive bidet," one proud owner said); motorized clothes racks like they have at the cleaners; and, "for the truly chic urbanite," heated public sidewalks.
The aging baby-boom market is destined to collide head-on with the professional-to-consumer crossover market. With plenty of time and money on their hands, baby boomers are going to look for new hobbies that will evoke another vocation they always wanted to pursue.
So, over-50s with a love for dogs, cats and other assorted animals will buy those stainless-steel tables and other veterinary accoutrements to better service their pets. Local colleges might even offer classes on routine "vetcare" activities, such as grooming and vaccinations. Instead of a "great room" (which the Journal says is "well on its way to middle America"), people will build examination rooms equipped with grooming shears and pet medical supplies.
The power of the professional market first hit me a couple of summers ago. Merrilee and my older daughter, Heather, learned about a professional-cook supply store and a paper and provisions warehouse outlet. Neither store advertised to consumers, but they wouldn't turn down sales from anybody.
Merrilee and Heather had a great time shopping there because they could stock up on authentic restaurant stuff, such as red plastic deli baskets with paper liners, ketchup and mustard squirt bottles, and even a chef's hat.
At the paper and provisions place, Heather bought cardboard holders for hot dogs, ice cream cartons, Coca-Cola plastic drink cups with lids and a hole for the straw, individual-size cups for ketchup and paper hamburger wrappers.
As Merrilee says: "Sometimes little girls like to play restaurant. Well, sometimes housewives like to play restaurant." And, I have a feeling, there's a