From Tom Hay
For Borderstan‘s continuing series on business owners and entrepreneurs I spent some time with Ann Blackwell, owner of Well Built at 1541 14th Street NW in Logan Circle. She opened the specialty furniture store in April 2010, occupying the space of the former travel bookstore, Candida’s World of Books. The common themes among the various furniture lines in the gallery-like showroom are beautiful design and sustainability.
The themes are a natural progression for Blackwell who has a degree in art, an early career in marketing, an LEED AP green building certification and several years of experience at national furniture retailer, Design Within Reach. Blackwell left the Georgetown DWR last fall and within a week had written a business plan for Well Built.
Blackwell says her customers are mostly from DC, represent all demographics and recognize that exceptional quality in design and construction are a luxury.
Borderstan: Can you tell us about a few of the manufacturers and designers you sell?
Blackwell: We have a Portuguese company, De La Espada, that only uses sustainable woods — we also carry Russell & Mackenna out of Jessup, Maryland, that does many classic forms in fun colors — many people also recognize the Autoban line, which is by a Turkish architectural firm.
Borderstan: Why did you select 14th Street for your store?
Blackwell: The location really had everything I wanted — I could have gone to Georgetown and have three times the foot traffic, and pay three times the rent — but 14th Street really had the vibe I wanted.
Borderstan: What do you look for in selecting your merchandise?
Blackwell: I look for pieces that are beautiful and sustainable. About two-thirds of our furniture is domestic and three lines come from within 100 miles of DC.
Borderstan: What were some of the biggest challenges to opening a store in DC?
Blackwell: We needed to do some renovations to the basement and had to get permits from DCRA — it took 30 hours and several days — really too long for some basic drywall and plumbing work.
Borderstan: Do you see more potential for 14th Street as a home design shopping destination?
Blackwell: I see it more as a well balanced Soho-like strip of galleries, theaters, high-end restaurants and furniture stores.
Borderstan: What are some of your most popular pieces of furniture?
Blackwell: The line from Misewell is very popular, we have a table, lamp and chair by them. The company was founded by two brothers in Milwaukee.
Borderstan: What other plans do you have for the store?
Blackwell: We are going to try doing some vignettes for the furniture displays — moving away from the gallery-like feel — we will also be adding floor coverings which are made of felt and may be customized.
On January 20 from 6 to 9pm Blackwell will host “Keeping it Close,” an event that will feature three local furniture designers.
Previous Profiles of Local Entrepreneurs
- B.fit studio Offers a New Type of Fitness Class
- Rue 14 Style: “Forward Thinking”
- Toucan Boutique Adds Business Diversity to 9th St.
- An Entrepreneur Wannabe? Talk to 1905′s Tony Lucca
- Home Rule: Pioneer Going Strong After 11 Years
- BTI Dance Institute Opens Doors on 14th Street
- Deals for Deeds: Discounts with a Charitable Touch
- Salon Rouge’s Salim: From Casablanca to 17th Street
- Miss Pixie: It Has to Be “My Own Show”
- Greater Goods Focuses on Sustainability, Green Products
- Paula Amt: Art and Business on the 14th Street Corridor
- 14th Street: Som Records Rides the Vinyl Resurgence