First look inside West Elm, downtown Reno's historic retail renovation
West Elm, a home goods store and the first major retailer to open in downtown Reno in 30 years, opens on Thursday — a historic moment inside a historic building.
Up until the very last minute, West Elm workers erected a new sign in front of the 1930s-era former Main U.S. Post Office, vacuumed linens, trained staff, hung fixtures and prepared for a grand-opening party.
“We didn’t have to sell (West Elm) on Reno," said Brianna Bullentini, the Post Office's lead designer, in an April interview with the RGJ. "There’s a lot of online sales here so it called for their next expansion to be in Reno. We had a whole trip planned taking them through Reno, but they were already convinced."
It is the first West Elm, a hipster Williams-Sonoma furniture brand and home decor store, in Northern Nevada and the second in all of Nevada. Some residents already received catalogs for the store. West Elm operates about 90 stores throughout the world. Many of the recent stores have opened in historic buildings.
The lobby and post office boxes of the post office were preserved since it appears on the National Historic Register. Building owner and developer, Bernie Carter, ordered replicas of the original light fixtures to replace the '90s-era fluorescent light fixtures. For now, temporary globes will light the hallway, but the new lights will match the rest of the building's Art-Deco aluminum and glass stylings.
West Elm plans to use the lobby as a gathering space for community events, pop-up fairs or workshops.
Local designer Zac Bryson also matched the new interior wood design above the cash registers with the exterior copper window ornamentation. His reclaimed wood frames and tables also sell in the local section. Marketing managers Nicole Sutliff and Stella Shi said this is one of their favorite new West Elm stores because of all the historic elements.
West Elm product designers even used the three walk-in safes to create small room demonstrations, such as a bar in one and a tiny dining area in another. In the center of the room, a seasonal space was created to house featured items, such as fall furniture or Christmas ornaments. It, and the rest of the main floor, are illuminated by a giant skylight Carter revealed during renovation several years ago. Soon, a small glass floor section will allow sunlight to beam through both floors into The Basement's concert venue.
West Elm's product line changes four times a year, with this store starting with their fall line. The midcentury furniture and colors match the original wood floors as if they were meant to be together.
Local makers and designers are also featured in a corner display and will expand as more people join the team. Wooden animals, handmade soap, screen printed totes, watercolor purses and letterpress cocktail coasters are among the pile of locally made goodies.
West Elm joins 13 other business in The Basement, which can be reached by a protected stairway on the south side of the store or from the loading dock in the rear on Center Street. Go downstairs to learn more about the building's historic marvels and life.
The second and third floors will eventually be filled by offices.
The synergy within the post office will be joined by the Renaissance Hotel, a Patagonia Outlet and a new apartment building, and restaurants and coffee shops will be nearby. On the other side of the river, the Virginian Hotel reopened this summer; the city of Reno purchased the dilapidated Cal-Nevada parking garage; and the Virginia Street Bridge and City Plaza opened with tremendous fanfare earlier in 2016.
West Elm in Nevada
West Elm sells mid-priced, contemporary, artisanal furniture #ThingsHipstersBuy. They recruited and trained an "intimate group" of Nevadan furniture makers to supply the Southern Nevada store and said they would do the same for Reno. The following makers create items for West Elm's Henderson store:
Examples of furniture and decor offered by West Elm. The furniture store will open in the historic U.S. Post Office in downtown Reno. The Basement shops lie beneath West Elm. Photos: West Elm; Video: Mike Higdon/RGJ
"West Elm launched in 2002 and quickly became a leader in home furnishings that are approachable, affordable and sustainably produced," according to their corporate overview. "Each season, West Elm's talented in-house team of designers creates an exclusive collection, collaborating with artists and independent designers globally and locally. The brand also offers handmade and one-of-a-kind discoveries from around the world, partnering with organizations that support the development of global craft communities."
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