The phone calls, the e-mails, the anonymous comments on this very blog—-they have all been heard, read, and registered by the execs at Room & Board, the furniture store that, despite it all, is still planning to move into 1840 14th St. NW.
But for all of the ‘hood’s lovers of diners and comedy clubs and local business owners, who are almost certainly not moving into 1840 14th St. NW, Room & Board is making promises. The company promises to be a good neighbor, hire people on salary with good bennies (rather than on commission), and restore the building into the showplace it once was.
In two phone calls, one from a PR rep who did not want to be named and one conference call with that rep, Chief Financial Officer Mark Miller, and Communications Director Jill Linville, the Room & Board folks confirmed they are deep into their D.C. plans and had been looking for the right spot for about two years.
Miller, who has been the most involved in the process, says the company considered sites in Tysons Corner, Rockville, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Georgetown, and “about 25 other locations,” including the old Central Union Mission building at 14th and R, before settling on the former Church of the Rapture at 14th and T.
Places outside of D.C. were quickly ruled out. “We see ourselves as more of an urban retailer than a suburban one,” says Miller. “One of the ways we operate is we are not interested in making a big presence about ourselves or to change the flavor of the neighborhood or impose our theme on it. We’ll make it fit in within the neighborhood.” One draw: Bob Gold + Mitchell Williams, another furniture chain on the higher end of affordable, has a store down the street, at 1526 14th St. NW.
Miller notes that delivery trucks will not be in and out. The 14th and T store will be showroom-only. A separate site will be developed in the ‘burbs as a warehouse and delivery hub.
The D.C. store, which will open in 2010, will be the 10th Room & Board, which started in Minneapolis. The ninth store is opening in Atlanta in ’09.
Plans for the building/eyesore include restoring it to resemble its former life as a Model T factory and showroom, Miller says. The company hired well-known local architects, Eric Colbert & Associates, to do the job.
Diner/Tryst/Open City owner Constantine Stavropoulos has all but given up the dream on 14th and T, although he notes Room & Board’s bid could still fall through. The deal is under a 60-day due-diligence period, which will be up Dec. 21, according to Miller. “There’s still a part of me that hopes Room & Board will not come to this location,” he says. As reality closes in, people have been calling “every other day” about other spots for the type of restaurant/comedy club/yoga/dance/indie movie combo Stavropoulos and his principal partner, John Xereas of DC-Improv and Riot Act, had planned. “We do have a good team together. If it falls through here, we’ll go somewhere else, but I’d still like to see it happen on 14th Street.”
He’s considered the Central Union Mission building, although he says the owner may have other plans for that spot.