Old Post Office Offers New Design

For several years, Design Within Reach had a small Westport store.

Tucked away on Elm Street — behind Klein’s and the back entrance to the YMCA — it was not, CEO John Edelman admits, a great location.

Now Design Within Reach — which calls itself “the largest retailer of authentic modern furniture and accessories in the world” — is back in Westport.

This time, they’re doing it right.

Design Within Reach — a new store in the old post office.

The Stamford-based company has taken over both levels of the 1935 post office building on the Post Road, across from Jeera Thai and Finalmente. They’ve completely renovated the 2 floors — which themselves were redesigned by Post 154, a restaurant that could not possibly need all that space — and made good use of the terrace overlooking Bay Street.

The Bay Street side of Design Within Reach. New entrances lead up from the sidewalk.

It’s one more exciting addition to downtown. With Bedford Square and Jesup Hall restaurant opening nearby, there’s an infusion of energy that hasn’t been felt since the movie theaters’ last picture shows 2 decades ago.

Edelman is excited to return. And he doesn’t just mean relocating the store.

His Westport roots go back to his parents, who got married here 70 years ago. They moved to Ridgefield (more land), but he made regular trips to Gold’s (for Sunday lox and bagels) and Klein’s (for Sally White’s record department).

Eight years ago, when Edelman became CEO, the New York Times did a story. Of all the company’s stores, he chose to be photographed in Westport.

Last week — as guests at an opening party admired the handsome chairs, desks, beds, lighting fixtures, sofas and more — Edelman took time to talk about his sprawling new store.

John Edelman (center), Design Within Reach’s CEO. He’s flanked by Matt Mandell (left, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce executive director) and Westport 1st selectman Jim Marpe.

As a post office, the building was a typical New Deal project: big and heavy. The Post 154 owners modernized it, but when they closed they left lots of “stuff” behind.

The new tenants created a beautiful space. It’s modern, open, alluring and airy.

Designers kept the center staircase, but that’s about all that remains. They “deconstructed” nearly all the rest. Exposed ceilings and HVAC give the store a hip, contemporary feel.

Dozens of pendant lights hang above the center staircase.

The terrace is a great idea, showcasing relaxed living while drawing customers from the side street.

The store — which really should be called Design Within Reach of Only Certain Zip Codes — does not have many suburban locations. Edelman says. But with 70% of their clientele having graduate degrees, Westport is a perfect spot.

Edelman is back in Westport big time. He and his wife rented a house on the water. He can walk to the train station, and he may buy a boat.

He can’t buy records from Sally White anymore. To mail a letter, he uses the “new” post office.

But he can still get his bagels and lox at Gold’s.

And then, a couple of blocks away, he can watch Design Within Reach help jump-start the renaissance of downtown Westport.

There’s plenty of room on the lower level to show off bedding, and more.

6 responses to “Old Post Office Offers New Design

  1. Donna O'Donnell

    To get additional shoppers into the store possibly add a coffee or some type of food café. Not as elaborate as Terrain but possibly mirror Depot 62 furniture store in Manchester VT where the salads and brick oven pizza brings in the bulk of the shoppers.

  2. Dan, Did you read the NYT article you linked to? It is not at all a positive piece, but details a scandal involving the store’s knockoffs of designer furniture pieces.

    Granted that was 2009, and the new CEO was brought in to fix things. But I find it amusing that, in the NYT story, the new CEO was actually quoted saying: “D.W.R. would stop making knockoffs, though it would not stop making products ‘inspired by classics.’ ”

    Today, in the very first paragraph of it’s “About Us” page, the store has changed its tune: “Authentic means that it’s the real thing. We don’t do “inspired by” or “just as good as” or “in the spirit of.”

    No mention that this is exactly what the company used to do…and worse.

    • i did read it. John mentioned it to me. I thought it was balanced and forward-looking — and, as you note, 8 years ago. A lot has happened since then.

  3. Cecelia Silva

    Looks like a GREAT Opening – best of luck forward!

  4. Marc Frazier

    1st step into changing the meaning of flagship stores being located in pretentious locations. DWR Westport with a history lesson, great choice!!

    FLAGSHIP definition: the best or most important thing owned or produced by a particular organization.

  5. What happened to the post office paintings?