From the outside, it’s a 19th
-century brick warehouse near the CSX tracks, once a printing plant and a post office.
But when you step inside 2414 Douglas St. NE, a riot of color and texture envelops you.
Greg Kimball and Wendy Hauenstein, the proprietors of Off the Beaten Track LLC
, have been collecting – or “hoarding,” they joke – vintage furniture and curios for decades.
The Brookland couple, who spent years working in finance, has lived everywhere from Lithuania and Haiti, honing their eye for everything from wooden masks from Africa to vintage Coke signs to velvet settees.
Yes, the items are for sale, says, Kimball, who bangs out price tags for them on old photographs threaded through the rollers of an antique typewriter. “But we don’t want to be this raging retail destination,” he says.
“We looked at the changing D.C. landscape,” he adds, “and we realized we wanted to do something a lot more right-brained than we had been.”
The vintage-furnishings store is but one piece of the couple’s vision for the repurposed, 36,000 square-foot warehouse. Out the old loading dock and on the second floor are two dozen separate studios and nooks for artists and small businesses, all but one of which have been leased.
From a janitorial-services company that was there when Hauenstein and Kimball bought the warehouse in 2012 for $2.1 million, to newer tenants – like the metalsmith and the floral designer and the letterpress card maker – a diverse mixture of entrepreneurs and artisans is recasting the entire space as a thriving hub of creative symbiosis.
There are a couple of warehouses-cum-nightclubs in the vicinity, but “we want to show people you can do other things with these old warehouses,” says Hauenstein. Providing attractive, affordable workspace is one.
She and Kimball are fostering an atmosphere of shared skills and talents, and also choosing tenants whose expertise complements each other. The photographer on the second floor might pay a visit to the metalwork studio for a prop, say, or the coffee roaster might stock the graphic-design couple with beans and brew to get them through a late night on deadline.
Philippa Tarrant, the florist, had had workspace in AU Park, but shifted to a vacant spot in the Douglas Street warehouse just a couple of months ago.
“There’s something about this building,” she says, tapping away at her laptop as a colleague arranged in a tall container a three-foot spray of branches studded with pink flowers. “The whole place feels really creative.”
Hauenstein says that she, Kimball and their tenants strive to reuse materials, partner with other DC vendors and suppliers, and implement green practices in the course of day-to-day business.
“See these doors?” Hauenstein says, pushing open a fuschia-colored one of the now-vacant second-floor studios. “They came from Community Forklift
. We get tons of stuff from them.”