Sad Scuttlebutt Turns Out to be True: Brassknob Warehouse Closing, Liquidating Inventory

Back in late Sept. I reported some scuttlebutt saying that the Brass Knob Warehouse located at 57 N Street, NW would be closing soon.

Thanks to a reader for sending in confirmation from the Post today:

Owner Ron Allan says the rent on the 24,000-square-foot property at 57 N St. NW has become prohibitive. In addition, the economy, the extreme weather and the city’s shift to modern condos have slowed sales in the business Allan likens to a “Victorian Home Depot.”

This is one time I hoped my scuttlebutt would be wrong. I’ll be sure to keep my eye on this space to see what it becomes. In the meantime you can see what a cool space the warehouse was here.

And they will be liquidating all their contents. You can read more about that here. And of course, “The Brass Knob Architectural Antiques will remain open at 2311 18th Street NW.”

18 Comment

  • Well, I know where I’ll be this weekend (and the one after that and after that until they close). At full price this place was frustratingly awesome: I loved lots of stuff there but could seldom afford what they were asking!

    And, yes, I realize people like me are probably the reason they are going out of business, but a budget is a budget and Community Forklift gets more of my business

  • It’s too bad. Im not sure how big 24000 feet is or what would be commercially feasible there. . . there is already a Harris teeter opening a block away so a grocery is unlikely. My guess is it gets torn down and condos put up. It’s probably a net plus for the hood but of course it could wind up sitting vacant for a while too, which would be bad. I have freinds who tried to sell a sweet house over there and had a hard time. God, how sweet would a Trader Joes be?

    • trader joes would demand a parking garage. as much as i’d love a trader joe there, aint gonna happen.

      • Do they always have to have a parking garage? And if so, it seems that if they can squeeze them in Foggy Bottom and Old Town Alexandria they could do it here.

        • those were new buildings, so they built parking garages, also, there is tractor trailer access. n street doesn’t have that.
          i guess its -possible-, shall we start a petition? i bet ncms and noma would be all over that.

  • I walk/ride past here multiple times every day. I’ll be sad to see the place go, though I’ll honestly not miss having to dodge their customers’s cars as they park haphazardly on the sidewalk.

    As for a grocery (even TJ’s) going in here, I doubt it, even if the building were to be torn down (which would be a shame, really). HT is opening in less than 2 months, Safeway is a fairly short walk, and even the O Street Giant is within walking distance. I just don’t know that there’s the demand to support that kind of supply in the neighborhood.

    Hope they can find *somebody* to go into the space here!

  • Sad sign of the times.

    Maybe if modern loft style apartments are just a passing fad, people might get back and more into restoring old Washington row houses again in greater numbers. There are still so many existing DC homes worthy.

    Perhaps the Brass Knob can move back into their old warehouse on Champlain Street, NW.

    It’s been completely vacant since they left.

    • people who want turnkey modern loft condos are not usually the same people that want to restore an old rowhouse.
      new construction will always be a ” fad”.

    • If, as a contractor, it costs you x dollars and y hours to install a new prehung door from Marvin, it would cost you 2*x dollars and 10*y hours to buy a used door from Brass knob, replane it, strip it, refinish it, put new hardware on it, and custom hang the door. Not to mention wandering around the warehouse trying to find 4 matching doors. I don’t know how you sell that additional cost to a homeowner. As a homeowner, you might buy a few pieces for a renovation, but you’d go broke trying to do an entire house with BK parts.

      If Brass Knob had taken the time to organize their inventory and fix it up so that it’s in ‘installable’ condition, I wonder if they would have been more successful. Clearly just having a warehouse full of deteriorating old odds and ends didn’t work.

  • Most things were very expensive…a neat place but too expensive for me!

  • Too bad to hear. I just spent a grand+ there recently. 😉

    And there is no way anyform of retail is going there.

    • I’d disagree. If you’re a property owner, the main reason you kick out an existing business is to make way for a more profitable business.

      • Sure, it’s not like landlords in our city charge exorbitant rents, watch the present tenants get forced out, and then sit on an un-leased property for a decade with no tenants… I mean that never happens [I mean look at the old brass knob warehouse].

        I’m not a economic genius, but I just can’t understand how a landlord would rather have no rent over low rent? I suppose it is some tax purpose. As a landlord I would think you would work with the tenant on reasonable rent until you can line up a new one. But I guess if you are paying more in taxes than you make in rent that may not work? It’s beyond me.

        Get ready to enjoy this vacant warehouse for the next 5-10 years!

    • Yeah….I wonder if it will just sit vacant. While the area has a ton of development going on, there is an entire commercial district along N. Capitol that has *nothing*, so its proximity to all the new stuff at NY Ave really doesn’t mean much. My guess is teardown/condos after a year or so. I’ve always loved the houses around there, along NYAve and the unit blocks, despite the, ahem, gritty vibe

  • Too sad to think of. The fact that a city with tens of thousands of victorian row houses can’t support a single salvage store is really pathetic.

    I guess those of us who do live in old homes (the majority of the city?) will have to take a truck to Philly or NYC on those occasional projects in which we need something old.

    I guess after 75% of the houses were gutted and turned into a “open spaces” with new granite countertops and cheap colonial style doors from home depot, this was bound to happen.

    This was also a place for DIY types, and let’s face it, this town is filled with soft handed paper pushers who drool over the idea of building something, but content themselves with another grad degree.

  • Well, to be fair it does support a salvage store (see to aforementioned Community Forklift). I know, I know, maybe not up to your high standards for salvage yards, but it does exist close to downtown. The problem with Brass Knob was their prices which their downtown rent undoubtedly contributed to.

    As to the comments on the sad state of Victorians in disrepair in this town, there is a very good explanation: housing prices. When the entry point for even un-renovated houses is high across the board why would someone pay a high 5 or even 6 figure premium for a historically accurate renovation? It’s no secret that flippers are doing record business in this town, and it’s not because there are a bunch of folks who don’t know their way around a hammer (OK, well some of them). It’s because the market for a flip is bigger and the profit margins better than for a “nice” renovation. We looked for well over a year and found 3 categories of houses:

    1) Flipped houses of various types with widely varying quality
    2) Well maintained or nicely restored houses
    3) Complete sh*tholes with lots of promise

    We settled on a #1 that had only mildly offensive changes, and most of them were due to years of prior neglect (the nice traditional details just didn’t exist anymore, man. We saw the “before” photos). All of the #2’s we saw didn’t really fit our other needs (size, location whatever). Anything that did was outside of our reach compared to comparable #1s. With a kid on the way we knew better than to deal with a #3. I am quite handy, but the prospect of 3-4 years of major work while living with the “charms” of an old house just wasn’t gonna happen; we like to have lives outside of work and home renovation. So, I’ll work on restoring what’s left of what we got.

  • Maybe we need The Brass Firehouse?

    Despite the relentless (and blind) optimism of certain community members, the chances of turning the Firehouse at North Capitol and Q into a successful restaurant are impossibly remote.

    Sure, the Firehouse sale had certain stipulations, but those have already been whittled and whittled on anyway. The building – which looks unchanged from the outside – has been for sale for awhile now ($1.5 million) so clearly there are financial problems. The restaurant operator most recently named has had his share of legal issues (mortgage fraud indictment, back pay owed to former workers).

    A long term lease with the Brass Knob Warehouse – if it’s affordable, that is – could bring in a steady income and put the building to good use without destroying its historical value. In time, a small eatery could grow on the ground floor, and maybe other specialty merchants (e.g., a wood reclaimer) could sub-let portions of the other floors.

    The Flea Market store – which looks better than it used to – is already across the street. We need to accept that this area will not be gentrified anytime soon (which plenty people are relieved about) and embrace it for what it is. It’s old (historic), and old is inherently green. It’s gritty, funky, down to earth. It’s “regular”. Maybe this could even be the start of an “arts and antiques” district.

    True, the Warehouse needs assistance with organizing, presenting, and pricing its merchandise. But if the City can subsidize Hilton Hotels and and all these other multimillion dollar developments, what’s a little bit of help for a small business that’s both historic AND green?

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