November 13, 2013 | by Mark Lee
Classic community retail
Steven Cruse, Sean Reidy, Simon Vintage Furniture & Home Goods, gay news, Washington Blade

Steven Cruse and Sean Reidy of Simon Vintage Furniture & Home Goods. The Shaw store features a wide range of mid-century finds. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Co-owners Steven Cruse and Sean Reidy didn’t worry when they named their shop after one of two dogs in the couple’s life. “Shadow is very secure about himself,” they chuckle, referring to their decidedly independent rock pit bull. “Simon, on the other hand, runs the house,” both quickly add.

Their eight-year-old Miniature Pinscher enjoys namesake distinction at Simon Vintage Furniture & Home Goods on the ever-busier Shaw neighborhood’s main thoroughfare in Northwest Washington, a few doors south of U Street. When the shop was being readied for opening last December, Simon’s image was emblazoned across dual storefront display windows as part of the company logo.

Simon’s uber-enthusiastic and “barky” personality curtails his time helping staff the shop. Most days you will find Cruse running the operation solo, after finishing his early-morning job as a Washington Post agent coordinating a large team of newspaper distributors in suburban Maryland and Baltimore County. Reidy, an architect and project manager at Bonstra Haresign Architects in Dupont Circle, joins his partner after office hours and on weekends, in addition to handling accounting and marketing duties.

The shop, located at 1911 9th St., N.W., fills the street level of a quaint low-rise building typical of the commercial district. Brimming with a wide range of mostly mid-century furnishings and Art Deco pieces, home accent objects, storage units, glassware and other unique treasures of time, locals and others pop by to see what new and novel acquisitions are available.

Closed Wednesdays and Thursdays, the duo’s thriving emporium is open from 2-7 p.m. other weekdays, and from 12-8 p.m. on weekends. Passerby smiles at the sight of bubbles shooting from a machine hidden among items exhibited outdoors are common.

“Customers want to turn a corner and be surprised,” Cruse explains, describing the plethora of diverse items organized in a bountiful maze throughout 1,200 square feet on the main floor and basement level below. “It’s all about the hunt,” he notes, “people are looking for the experience of discovering things for their home and life.” Word-of-mouth referrals highlighting both the broad array of merchandise and the distinctly affordable pricing have helped grow the enterprise.

“Vintage hounds” join inquisitive casual shoppers and those looking to furnish abodes or enliven home decors. Many are residents in the population-exploding areas throughout the District’s mid-section and elsewhere in the city and surrounding suburbs.

Cruse spent several years exploring estate sales, vintage auctions, thrift shops and flea markets while sharing a summer home on the Delaware shore. One of those housemates, along with two other buyers, search for new merchandise. Cruse also continues what was once a hobby, seeking items to replenish the constantly changing stock.

Tables, lamps, chairs, armoires and cabinetry pieces of all sizes and finishes and including contemporary items, unique home accent pieces and an assortment of knickknacks and oddities enliven the space. Patrons of all ages, residence size and design styles are often spurred to re-purpose antique objects for contemporary uses or to embellish more modern environments.

The intimate shop lends itself to the customer-oriented friendly assistance offered by the affable couple. Reidy emphasizes that a welcoming store personality is key to building relationships. “Many of our customers want to know the story behind pieces,” says Cruse, “and a lot of the time our customers educate us.”

Cruse and Reidy have learned the rigors of launching a successful small business, and the time dedicated to a myriad of tasks. It’s easy to discern, however, that both are delighted to be building a venture from the past for their future together.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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