By Anna Sekula Posted June 27, 2011, 10:37 AM EDT
On the first official day of summer, Mercedes-Benz celebrated the opening of its Manhattan dealership in a big way, hosting some 1,000 guests at two separate parties—a V.I.P. reception and ribbon-cutting at its shiny new West Side venue, followed by a tailgate party and concert across the street at De Witt Clinton Park. And true to the luxury German auto brand's style, Tuesday night was a grand affair, with cuisine created by a James Beard Award-winning chef, a list of attendees that included government officials and big-name musical talent, and a concert complete with Champagne and chandeliers. There were even pins—a pair of miniature flags, one bearing the brand's logo and the other the Stars and Stripes—to replace the standard entrance wristband.
Charged with producing and designing the posh event was Van Wyck & Van Wyck, a firm that has worked with Mercedes-Benz for the better part of a decade, handling Fashion Week lounges, auto show parties, launches, and other functions. Kari Bien of the firm's recently launched brand experience division headed the management of the project, which not only included creating a stylish setting, but also employing a decor scheme that would complement the architecture. Beyond flaunting its latest car models and the overall look of the 330,000-square-foot venue, the carmaker wanted to showcase the technology integrated into the flagship to Mercedes dealers and loyal customers.
To keep the venue's architecture at the forefront of the event's aesthetic, the production team worked with a mainly white palette for the furniture, using touches of blue to match the hue of the logo signs and the two-story LED feature wall. This left key design elements such as the new reception and sales desks and the customer lounges largely untouched, and provided plenty of space for guests to examine the cars on display, which included a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K special roadster.
Just as clean in look were the four food stations spread throughout the main space. From tables draped in plain white cloths, Union Square Events served fare it conceived in collaboration with the Modern's executive chef, Gabriel Kreuther, who won the James Beard Foundation's award for best chef in New York City in 2009.
Across 11th Avenue, the scene was a little more lush, but no less grand. Aiming to create an outdoor picnic and upscale tailgate party, the organizers added black-and-white-striped cabana tents to house the food tables, displayed cars beneath floodlights and midnight-blue-colored flags, scattered potted ferns and topiary trees throughout the grounds, and served flutes of Champagne out of the back of luxury SUVs. The central space was a 13,000-square-foot tent, where the stage for the musical performance was set up. In this area, sea-grass carpets formed the floor, foliage-covered chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and seating comprised padded bleachers and cushy white sofas.
Once the surprise musical guest—Matchbox 20—took the stage, the festivities got lively as guests hit the dance floor, fueled by plenty of Champagne and desserts.