Our Story - Part 5 - Our new location!

Thanks for coming along for the week-long ride everyone. We truly love you for it.

And now, without further ado, I present our new location:

Ta da!

Oh, wait…that’s the old, old photo of it. Here’s one that you’ll better recognize:

YAY!

Yes, Jon and I are soon moving into the Norka Futon building, located just outside of downtown at 143 West Market Street here in Akron! And we couldn’t be more excited!

For those of you not from around these parts, this building is awe-ha-some! Besides the fact that it is located minutes from our home, in our West Hill neighborhood, what you can’t see is the spectacular view from the other direction. This building sits at the very top of a steep hill as you head out of downtown. Its ridiculously tall exterior wall facing downtown is a giant billboard for whatever is inside, as it stands alone and is unobstructed, and it is kind of a city landmark. Everyone knows where the Norka Futon building is.

And that is our new stomping grounds.

So, if one knows anything about me and the type of work that I do, they know that I have a deep and passionate love affair with objects and notions of days gone by. I am in love with treasured family heirlooms, vintage anything, buildings and architecture from our rich past…and the stories that are told by the people that knew them feel like prayers spoken out of love and respect for who and what has come before us.

So, to say that I love and have deep respect for this building and promise to all who loved it before that we will take good care of it sounds exactly like something I would say. So I just did, because I mean it.

Amen. Namaste. Cheers!

And away we go.

Here are our initial plans for the space. They are simply bullet points to set the stage… much more colorful descriptions will come to you as we approach our grand opening.

We are still deciding what to call our new joint business in this new space, I want to give it a bit more time to churn and simmer before I commit, but we plan to open our doors in July. Rest assured, in true Starr/Haidet-style, we will spread the word loud and have one hell of a party when it is time to throw open our doors. We hope you’ll join us.

We will be a gathering place where you will find: fresh, solid, accessible, responsible interior design; custom picture framing by truly the best craftsmen around who just also happens to do his craft at the best prices around; a sprawling, weaving adventure-of-a-showroom full of home decor elements that Jon and I deam as “minty” (green + cool = minty)…that would be things like one-of-a-kind redesigned furniture; affordable, eco-friendly and locally-made furniture; local art; and some cool vintage finds given a new twist or a facelift.

Our vision includes light, friends, creativity, collaboration, music, happiness, comradery, local love. It will be a destination where you can pop in to check out what’s new, say howdy, meander and shop with a cup o’ joe or a glass o’ wine. You can plop right down on the furniture and chill out and I’ll tell you the story of the piece you’re about to buy if you want to hear it.

Art will live in all forms here. The common threads will be: local, one-of-a-kind originals or one-of-a-kind repurposed/redesigned pieces.

Here’s the key element for all you artists and artisans out there living your dream, making the good stuff, but with no real marketplace to sell it: our showroom and gallery will not only be a place for the things I/we redesign and create, but we will also be a showroom and gallery for other local designs and art too. We will do consignment in our space for local artists and artisans, and we can’t wait to see what’s being created out there and to give it a showroom. If you are one of the people out there making the one-of-a-kind artwork of furnishings…if you’re taking some thing and turning it into something else and it belongs in the interior design world…if it’s minty and you think it may fit with our style, get in touch. We can’t wait to see what your beautiful minds are churning up out there.

I’ll write more about everything soon. Until then, please forward this on to anyone who may be interested in any part of this news.

And a million thank yous to all of you reading this…to have your eyes and ears and support and cheers truly means the world to us as we begin this new chapter of our lives.

So, friend! Got some more time? Would you like to hear some of the history of the building that I’ve been able to gather so far? I say so far because my hope is to meet some of the people who knew about the building during different times in it’s colorful history. I am most intrigued by the era when it was owned and transformed by John P. Mazzola, the interior designer who took care of the building before it became Norka Futon. You’ll see why in a minute…

As the story goes:

First recorded history of this structure is 1875, but it is a bit older than that.

Somewhere around 1915 or 1920, Market Street was re-graded to accommodate automobiles. Story goes that first gear in an automobile just couldn’t handle the incline or the staggered, raised bricks designed to catch on horses hooves as well as the horses could. The street used to be a much steeper incline than it is now, just like “Cadillac Hill” that still stands close by today. The automobiles had to stop at the base of the hill, put it in reverse, then back up the hill to get to the top. With this adjustment of the incline to handle cars, the building had to be “adjusted” too, so they dug out the basement, lowered the building by about 3 feet, and plunked it back down. Cool visual indication of this is still obvious in the basement of the building.

Next recorded history is in the 1940′s. From a publication we were lucky enough to get our hands on, it says: “Many varied types of business operations have been housed here, that of greatest duration, a grocery store combined with bookie activities and a “house for gentleman” on the second floor (this was back when the building only had two floors.)

John P. Mazzola Interiors took over the building in the 1960′s. Over the next hand-full of years, John and his collaborators did quite the overhaul and transformation on the building. Due to the street re-grading way back when, it then allowed enough room for an interior designer with a grand vision to add another loft-type level to the space, essentially changing it from a building with two levels to one with three levels.

Here are some photos of the space then and the space now:

then

now

The first is from a reprint publication of an article in Interior Design Magazine, from March 1968. I was told that John P. Mazzola won an award for his work on the space. The project was labeled “Derelict Transformed” because the building was in such poor shape when he started the work on it. Story goes that John always called the building “The Studio”.

When Norka Futon bought it in 1993, they made some minor adjustments to suit their business needs (for instance - adding the wall shown to close in offices at the top of the stairs/under the front of the loft.) They paid attention though to take care of the building’s history and they kept almost all of the original artistic integrity of what John P. Mazzola did in the major transformation. Yay Norka Futon guys!

And a bit about Norka…did you know they had 8 stores; that they were the top futon manufacturer in the country (the world, too I would imagine) and only used American hard woods in an American factory to make their products; that at one point they had 180 other companies selling their futons too? Wow, I didn’t know any of this stuff! They were the top in their industry and it all started here in Akron! The guys decided it was time to close this chapter in their lives as their industry changed, and I think it’s just plain fantastic that this building is now in it’s third generation of home furnishings.

So that’s all for now. I’ll provide more fun photos and stories next week.

Until then, have an awesome weekend with your loved ones!

All the best,

Karen and Jon

P.S. Just want to take a moment to send a shout out to our hero, George, at our bank! He believed in us and was cool with our tenacity (Sorry, George…but can we just keep trying?!) He fought for us and our mission, and at a time when the financial industry rules have really changed the way banks deal with small businesses like us. If it weren’t for him, we might not be sending out any of this.