Dear PoP – Can Anyone Offer Advice on Where To Open Up a Vintage Furniture Shop?

“Dear PoP,

I am the individual who was looking into leasing the space next to CH Coffee in hopes of opening a vintage furniture store that would sell primarily mid-century & Danish modern furniture. Unfortunately I was about a month late in applying as the owners were already in serious negotiations with the current tenant who is applying for the alcohol license. The space is only 600 sq feet, so how they would ever fit 75 people — I don’t know. Regardless, their space limitations is not why I am writing.

I am a resident of CH & have been selling this furniture as a side hobby for some time now. However, with having a ‘regular’ FT job & already devoting almost all of my weekends to this side endeavor, I have not had much time to look for alternative locations. As a resident of CH, I am very much hoping to open this business within our neighborhood; and also offer some type of store discount to local residents.

I am seeking your assistance in helping me find an alternative location for this business. It appears that CH has a lot of retail space available, but unfortunately for a large portion of these closed storefronts, it is difficult to track down the appropriate individual(s) to inquire about leasing the space. At the same time, leasing space in a prime location on 14th street is not feasible. Nor is that the type of store/space I am desiring.

After reading some of the comments on your web site, I’m wondering how I would also go about contacting some the respondents (if they were open to this) for their help in this matter. I say this because “New2CH” and “Tim” seem to have a devoted interest in the CH community, in addition to a lot of knowledge on locations and/or the subject. These are two people who recently posted comments that sparked my attention.”

Anyone have any advice and/or suggestions?

34 Comment

  • Look into hiring a commercial real estate broker, finding spaces for commercial tenants is their business.

  • Any reasons why you don’t want to use a realtor?

    When you say 14th Street isn’t feasible, do you mean all of it or just around DCUSA? I would think there are some spots north of monroe. If Carolina mkt can pay the rent, it can’t be too expensive.

    I think someone was posting the other day saying they were an unemployed architect or something, maybe try and find someone in that position that knows about zoning/code and would work for cheap to help you leverage the lack of time.

    I would imagine most commercial leases are 5 year minimums. Do you have an idea of square footage and what you can pay per ft?

    Other things to think about – Have you created a legal entity? Do you have a business license? Tax id?

  • meant leasing agent… here is the closest I could find, too big, but $35 a foot might give you something to start with

  • MOUNT PLEASANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • There is space on Shepherd St, just east of Georgia that is for lease and the info is in the window. (I believe Long & Foster is the agent.) I would definately frequent the place if you opened there!

    BTW, I’m looking for a relatively small mid-century credenza (about 35″ or so long) — do you have anything that might work for me?

  • I’d suggest anywhere on 11th Street NW, in Columbia Heights, or 14th Street in Columbia Heights but NORTH of the Tivoli where rents should be a little cheaper.

  • what about some place in SOUTH CH? All those new apt buildings (solea and View 14) have tons of retail available. Also, more in CH at the area around Fairmont, there is space available in the Amsterdam and maybe across the street in the dunkin donuts building.

  • We’d love to have you in Shaw!

    1302 9th Street (current home to Long View Gallery, which is moving half a block down) is available for around $3000 a month. It’s about 1000 Square feet and is a great location.

    Several spaces in the convention center are available. Contact Theresa Dubois for more information about the same ([email protected]).

    There are several properties on 7th and 9th Street around the convention center owned by Douglas Development that are avialable.

    Finally, 1544 9th Street is available for $2500 a month. It’s a two story corner structure with patio space and is highly visible on Rhode Island Avenue. It looks like it needs a lot of work (formerly a pizza parlor, I think a renovation stalled a few years ago and it sits gutted). It also needs a zoning variance (can’t see that a variance would be a problem for a furniture store).

  • There are a number of empty spaces between Monroe and Spring on 14th St. However, more reasonably prices would likely be those North of Spring. For example, I think there is a small empty storefront almost right accross from Red Derby – not the new building but between Quincy and Randolph I think. Now imagine all the hipsters going to Red Derby – they would love the kind of stuff you are planning. 😀

    There are more storefronts further up between Randolph and Shephard or so.

    You should contact he 14th street business association – yes, the infamous Tivoli North folks 😉 Their contact person is [email protected] (I found the info in these minutes: )

  • I can’t speak to the rent, but even before it became an available space, I thought that the former “Casa Furniture” spot on the corner of 14th and Monroe would be perfect for a vintage clothing/furniture store. If the square footage is larger than you need, you should consider finding another person selling vintage items who would be willing to co-rent the space with you (the same way that antiques dealers do). This would keep overhead down and would do a much better job of bringing foot traffic than locating far from any commercial strip.

    I think that a good vintage store in that location or in the blocks between Monroe and Spring would do wonders to bring more foot traffic North of the Tivoli. Best of luck to you!

  • Are you sure you want to open a small, vintage furniture store? Good Eye just closed, Skynear is closing, and a lot of other furniture places have tanked…

    Where can you source Mid-C furniture that Millennium, Home Anthology, Hunted House, Daniel Donnelly and Modernica aren’t already?


  • Can you buy out the laundromat at 11th and Lamont?

  • The blog responses are very impressive, excellent community help. Open real soon, I will shop at your store keep us informed.

  • Georgia Avenue is screaming for upscale businesses – anything but more take-outs, pawn shops and liquor stores!. I will be your best customer, I swear!!!

  • I do not believe at all that a vintage furniture dealer should open in a storefront. I do not believe this AT ALL. I think the potential store owner needs to think outside the box here and they aren’t.

  • The old good eye space is very good, though not very Metro accessible. Miss Pixie’s old space on 18th in Adams Morgan I think is still vacant. It’s not a bad idea to look around the Mt. Vernon Sq. nabe, as there is a lot of new development there and folks will be looking for furniture options. If you need/want a business partner, let me know. I’d be interested. I’ve been collecting, rather compulsively, MCM furtniture and glass, art, and pottery for about 15 years. I shared a space in a antique mart with a friend a few years ago in SF.

  • I agree with Lee 6:05 and “come to petworth” suggestions above!!

    Places next door to Temperence Hall (GA Ave) and Domku (Upshur) look to be available and clean. The 11th St storefront that used to be “Swiss Upholstery” looks available. You could also enquire at the security place located on the 2nd floor above Arthur’s (11th and Lamont) about the “Up You Mighty Race” store next door. And the former Jackson Hewitt (Georgia and Kenyon) is available.

    I would suggest speaking with Mr James Spruill. He owns many commercial properties in the neighborhood. He might also be willing to sublet the place at 3213 6th StNW (Lamont/Keefer) (now operating as a small liquor store to beat the vacant property tax). Mr Spruill may be found in Spruill’s on the east side of Georgia Ave betw Lamont and Kenyon — ask for him in the morning around 9-10 am.

    In general, you can also check the DC property listings if you want to find an owner. Can’t wait to have you in a local store nearby!

  • DF – I’ve bought furniture from him already – she’s a neighbor of mine! He’s got some great stuff, and no wear near the prices Millenium, Hunted House, etc have. Granted, it’s probably not the same pristine condition, but still nice stuff. On top of that, he’s super friendly and interested in the neighborhood. I know I’d shop at his store quite frequently. I don’t have a high-paying job, but I’m interested in good quality furniture at a decent price.

  • Argh, HE’s a neighbor of mine. I should remember to fully delete my false start sentences.

  • The owners of this future store should study the competition and learn from their mistakes, so as to avoid the fate of Skynear. Millenium arts and crafts has old pieces but rarely classics, and they frequently misidentify the few designers they do keep in stock. Daniel Donnelly has a reputation for selling mint-condition pieces for a mint price-tag….but doesn’t hesitate to put the same price tag on damaged pieces too.

    When first reading this post, I thought that Mount Pleasant Street or 14th Street north of DCUSA would be good locations and I’m glad to see a few other readers think so too. Both already have good foot traffic that would get a new store noticed, but parking isn’t so difficult a buyer couldn’t pickup purchases, and the DCUSA center obviously draws people who are interested in shopping. The area could really use locally-owned business that isn’t beverage and food-related.

  • Thank You so much everyone, for your words of wisdom (especially the details on specific sites and/or contact people); and of course to PoP for posting this question.

    My previously conversations with a commercial real estate broker, were not favorable as I left with the feeling they were more interested in helping ‘bigger clients’. I get it, such is life; so I figured why not reach out to my neighbors who live & walk the streets here, day in and day out, for you are my potential customers.

    I can survive with as little as 600 sq ft, and yes, feel that rents near 14th St (next to DCUSA) would probably warrant too much of a premium. I do not need the big window with all the bells & whistles. I’m looking for a simple space in a growing neighborhood that would allow me to show my wares in a place other than my home or storage facilities. While a lot of foot traffic is great, it often comes with a high cost. I’m a firm believer in offering a quality product/service and standing behind it with strong customer service. Hopefully word-of-mouth will continue to serve me well.

    ‘aj’ – I absolutely can help you w/ a 35″ credenza. Do you prefer teak vs. walnut and/ or drawers vs. doors?

    ‘the greater you’ – willing to consider a partner/investor

    cheers, [email protected]

  • MCMFurnitureDC: from your comments, it sounds like Shaw would be the best place to look. How about this place? 9th Street is the corridor that seems to fit all of your criteria (cheaper than 14th, growing neighborhood, growing foot traffic, good sense of community, so strong word of mouth).

    Best of luck to you!

  • I would suggest the 800 block of Upshur Street NW there is a store vacant and the block is in need of good business customers.

  • Yes, please come to Petworth and Upshur is a great location. There is already more of a thrift furniture store of sorts on that block and I think having 2 furniture places on the same block would probably benefit you both.

    I have been racking my brain trying to figure out a business that would work in DC or in that area that isn’t a restaurant or bar…. good luck to you.

  • MCMFurnitureDC, do you have a website for your stuff (the link in your name does not work)?

    Again, I would look at the few blogs North of Spring as they are sorta/kinda in the middle point of CH, Petworth, 16th St. Heights and probably still relatively cheap.

  • I support the Upshur St. recommendation. But I have to also say…, really? More MCM/Danish shit? I feel like that’s all that peeps are trying to sell. Aside from the new condos, what architecture in DC really lends itself to that style? (Okay, maybe the ug houses on Arkansas).


  • Come to Petworth. I don’t actually like this style furniture but come anyways – I’m sure there are lots of other people in the ‘hood that do.

  • Neener, can you elaborate?

  • It seems like 14th St south of U is where all the furniture is at these days. That might be too pricey though.

    I’d love to see some of those empty storefronts on Georgia Ave get some more use.

  • I think the rents must be totally cheap on Georgia Ave near the Looking Glass Lounge; if someone tries to give you a high price, ask them what they were getting in rent when the space was boarded up.

  • Lots of good suggestions but here is one REALLY outside the box one. I saw a sign for a 4000 sq. ft. (I believe) space for lease in the alley behind the Monroe / 11th Park (alley entrance on Monroe, heading north). no idea what the space consists of, exactly. I don’t believe there is any street frontage, and I have no idea about zoning, but I would THINK that space would be available for cheap. I think there was a number on the sign to call to enquire. Might be worth a shot.

    I think I mentioned this before, the former funiture place in the PNC Bank building is still vacant, and I’m sure cheaper than DCUSA, but probably still quite pricey. And I agree with everyone else who suggested upper 14th Street and Georgia Ave, plus perhaps Park Road west of DCUSA. If Simply Soles can afford rent on Park Road, I imagine it can’t be TOO much.

    I really hope you find a place in Columbia Heights, which badly needs some cool furnishings stores. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!

  • Why doesn’t this guy open a drive in movie theater instead? It makes more sense than any of the above suggestions. Here’s a hint- go to business school and get an MBA. Everyone’s talking about what’s “too pricey.”

    Washington, DC as an entire city is too pricey for a business that’s going to generate about $3000 profit per month and pay $3500 in rent.

  • Mt. Pleasant please

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