OKA: Another British furniture brand lands downtown
By Gretchen Webster
WESTPORT — The “British invasion” of Main Street, circa 2022, continues Friday as OKA, a British furniture and home accessories store, opens at 44 Main St.
The new store joins Timothy Oulton, a British-based furniture retailer that opened in August at 38 Main St., and the British art gallery, Clarendon Fine Art, under renovation at 22 Main St.
The two-level OKA Westport store, at 15,000 square feet, is the largest OKA store anywhere, including the company’s stores in London, where the headquarters are located, according to Emily Hart, U.S. director of retail for OKA. It is the brand’s only outlet in the Northeast.
The Westport store, once the home of Klein’s department store and Banana Republic, was able to occupy the large space after the Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this year approved a regulation allowing a single downtown business to expand beyond 10,000 square feet, the previous size limit.
OKA, which has a U.S. headquarters in Dallas, intended Westport to be the company’s first store in the U.S., but the COVID pandemic delayed the opening and two smaller OKA stores opened first — one in Dallas and one in Houston.
“When we were scouting locations, we were interested in being in locations where home design is coming to life,” said Hart.
“I think it’s exciting to have British design in Westport. We’re thrilled to be next to Timothy Oulton.”
But each store has unique features, according to Susan Benedetti, OKA Westport’s store manager and a Fairfield County resident.
“OKA offers a kaleidoscope of textures and colors,” which makes the store’s collection different, she said. “When you go shopping in this area you see a lot of grays and beige.”
Most of the 11 staffers at the new OKA store have a design background, including Benedetti, who was a lead designer at Lillian August in Norwalk, according to Hart.
A crew of designers and other staff from the UK have been worked hard in recent weeks to ready the Westport store for opening, she said. And Thursday, the store’s British/American team members were collaborating to group displays of furniture and accessories around the premises in preparation for the holiday-season opening.
Among its features, the store has a made-to-order custom collection, Hart said.
An unusual offering is a room filled with “faux flowers,” and the floral department is a specialty of the company, according to Benedetti.
There is also a pillow wall displaying all kinds of pillows, as well as comfortable furniture displays all over the store’s two levels.
And there is an upstairs porch overlooking Main Street, a rare feature in a furniture store.
Although OKA is a British brand, much of its merchandise is “quick stock,” Hart said, and everything ships from the U.S.
Angela Mikhael, an interior decorator from Easton, is working part-time at the new store as well as in her own interior design business. She believes OKA’s Westport store will do “amazingly well. It’s different than what we’re used to,” she said.
Hart is welcoming customers to make a relaxing visit to OKA Westport during this busy shopping season, and take time perusing all the merchandise the store has to offer.
“You don’t have to worry about matching, just have fun with your space,” Hart said.
“A furniture store should be a design playground.”
OKA Westport, 44 Main St., from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 203-583-8001 or visit the OKA Westport website.
Freelance writer Gretchen Webster, a Fairfield County journalist and journalism teacher for many years, was editor of the Fairfield Minuteman newspaper for 10 years and currently teaches journalism at Southern Connecticut State University.