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Loft Appeal Expands; Opens Second Location in the Arts District

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, June 16, 2008, at 10:16AM
Loft Appeal Grand Opening Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Posing for the ribbon cutting at Loft Appeal's Arts District store: (L-R) Rich Reams, Russell Brown, Hal Bastian, Councilman Jose Huizar, and Ron Senger.

On Saturday night, Downtown furnishings staple Loft Appeal held the grand opening for its second store, located in the Arts District. Owners Rich Reams and Ron Senger were some of the early retail pioneers in this Downtown renaissance, opening their store at 9th and Hill in the fall of 2004.

Their new space at 521 S. Hewitt is located in the Barker Block, Kor Group's sprawling Arts District development. The 20,000 square foot warehouse dates from the 1920s, and houses both the furnishings store and Reel Appeal, selling items liquidated from a movie prop house.

After Saturday's opening, we emailed Rich and Ron some questions about doing business Downtown and the process of opening their new space.

ERIC RICHARDSON: The new space is really cool, and really big. How did you end up finding it? Were you looking in the Arts District and found it yourself, or did Kor approach you?

RICH REAMS: We found it through Realtor (and now, good friend) Derrick Moore, who took me there one day and showed me the warehouses, and there was a dead rat hanging off the gate. That was two years ago and the condo building was not very far along, there were no trees, and not much to look at. We met the KOR people about six months later, after months of talking, they asked us to join them, and made us a very generous offer. They have really worked with us and have been the driving force in helping all the new retail on the block. We turned Derrick onto LOFTY DOG, and then I got Russ Brown involved,and he brought ARTE CALIDAD, and now the block is turning into a nice little retail oasis.

We were actually looking in the Old Bank district, but nothing big enough was ready yet, and we had to start moving stuff last summer.

ERIC: How did you originally decide to open the first store Downtown?

RICH: We have always loved a good re do!!!

We spent 4 years, almost full time, converting an old Church/Wedding Chapel/Residence into our vacation home, and three separate vacation rentals. We gutted the entire insides of the almost 4,000 square foot structure across the street from the lake and marina, and made them into beautiful vacation rentals and our 2nd home.

And, with Ron working for the city for about 15 years at the time, he was seeing all the plans for the redevelopment first hand, and we just decided that there was a lot of potential for a furniture store. Our first furniture store opened in 2002 in Big Bear Lake where we redeveloped the old abandoned roller rink in prime village retail. So, we like the adaptive reuse concept.

ERIC: What's been your biggest surprise about Downtown over the past four years of being open?

RICH: Our biggest surprise, and our best surprise was the sense of community, and what a close knit community it was. We have made so many friends down here in the past four years... We lived in our house in Palmdale for 14 years, and only knew one family on the street. Our city council members for both stores have always been very approachable, and there to listen to our concerns, and a huge help.

ERIC: What's the change happening Downtown right now that you're most excited about?

RICH: The whole picture... LA LIVE is the one single thing, and the next major thing that will have a major effect on downtown... Ralph's had a big impact, we saw a huge increase in foot traffic when they opened. There is night life on the streets around our store, when before it was scary at night.

ERIC: Free answer... What's something you want to tell our readers?

RICH: Thanks for all your support throughout the years... We have met so many nice people at the store and at downtown events. We are here for all your furniture and decorating needs, including drapes and HUNTER DOUGLAS BLINDS. Or if you need to learn about restaurants in our area... Please remember we were the first to come and we hope to be here for a long time. We are your community store, and we aim to please, so please find your best deal anywhere and then come to us, and let us try and beat it. We're in the neighborhood and stand behind our merchandise. We offer complete design service, and offer a FREE IN HOME DESIGN consultation for all residents, when you purchase from us. There is a $100 design Consultation fee (45 minutes), that you get back off your purchase of $1000. You also get a 20% discount off your first purchase, and a locals discount off all purchases.

Loft Appeal has two locations Downtown, at 903 S. Hill and the new Arts District location at 521 S. Hewitt.

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