From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we sit down to talk with businesses around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. Have an idea for a business in Alexandria to talk to? Email us!
There’s a reason Alexandria, VA is the Shop Small Headquarters for the D.C. region- we have the most small and independently owned businesses in the DMV. Stores like Acme Mid-Century + Modern are part of that network- we sat down with S. Pierre Paret, Proprietor, to learn more about this unique King St. small business.
AEDP: Acme Mid-Century + Modern is such a unique store- can you tell us more about it?
Pierre: Acme has an eclectic mix of vintage and contemporary furniture, art, lighting, and home goods. When we started out, our primary focus was vintage furniture, but we now also focus on smaller items, such as barware, clocks, sculpture, and other home goods, which are attractive to walk-in tourists and visitors. We still have a large selection of furniture, so our traditional client base is still served, and we have expanded to carry new mid-century furniture designs from firms such as Modernica, which make high-quality furniture customized to our clients’ needs. While we have some examples in the store, we also have fabric swatches, wood samples, and fiberglass chips to allow us to work with our customers to design the perfect pieces for them.
AEDP: How would you describe your “company culture?”
Pierre: At Acme, we strive to give customers a pleasant experience. I often put myself in the customer’s shoes when making decisions, and I think that has resulted in a great client base and exceptional customer satisfaction, ratings, and an excellent reputation. I don’t believe the old adage that the customer is always right, but I do believe a business that deals honestly, helpfully, and respectfully with customers will be more successful in the long run. We also strive to have a very casual and comfortable atmosphere, where customers can come in and chat or just look around without any pressure.
AEDP: What would you say is the most challenging part of running the store?
Pierre: Old Town is a relatively expensive area to operate a business in. Taking advantage of and leveraging the benefits of being in Old Town to maintain and grow the business, I think, is one of the keys to operating a business here successfully. We have a wonderful location, a great landlord, excellent exposure, and much more, but that doesn’t always translate into revenue, so it is always a struggle to remain profitable.
AEDP: And what is the most rewarding part?
Pierre: There are two I’d like to highlight. The first is that the control and responsibility for the operation lies entirely with me — no committees, teams, or partners. It’s also a bit scary to deal with the myriad aspects of creating and operating a business, but I have good friends, colleagues that run other businesses, and others that I can tap into for advice or to run ideas by. It is very rewarding when we get recognition, and we’ve been covered by Good Morning Washington on WJLA ABC channel 7, Northern Virginia Magazine, Washingtonian, Vogue, last year won a “Retail Stars” recognition from Home Accents Today, and industry magazine. The second rewarding aspect is that I get first dibs on anything that comes into the store. We get some wonderful and beautiful items coming into the store, and especially recently, when I bought my first mid-century modern house, I can obtain things for my own use or put them in the store.
AEDP: Can you share the next big project that you’re working on?
Pierre: I’m currently exploring creating a line of chairs designed over 50 years ago by a well-known local architect. The designs were part of the blueprints to the mid-century home I recently purchased and renovated, and apparently intended for my home. To my knowledge, the furniture was never manufactured, so I’m looking to bring these designs to life.
AEDP: And to finish, can you tell us why you decided to locate here, in Alexandria, VA?
Pierre: Acme started out in Alexandria, as I used to live in Del Ray. The first iteration of Acme was a single 10’ by 10’ basement space rented at an antique mall-type store in Del Ray, within walking distance of my home. I eventually expanded to three spaces in the store as the business grew. The store eventually moved to a large space in Fairfax County Alexandria, and became Evolution Home. I moved my spaces with them, but wanted to still have a presence in a walkable area, so I started to explore opening my own space in Del Ray or Old Town.
Our first exclusive space was tiny, but it gave me an opportunity to learn the basics about operating my own business, such as permits, accepting credit cards, packing materials, advertising, and many other aspects of having my own independent business. After a year, we moved to a much larger space on Royal Street, about a block off of King. The business grew there and when my lease was up I really wanted to move up to a King Street presence, and we found our great current space at 1218 King. On King Street, we have a great exposure to tourists and other visitors, but are also accessible to our regular clients and those who are specifically seeking us out for our inventory. Alexandria, and Old Town specifically, offers a great atmosphere, an excellent mix of restaurants, museums, hotels, and dining, a consistent flow of visitors, and excellent auto and Metro accessibility for people coming from other parts of the DC metropolitan area.
To learn more about Acme Mid-Century + Modern, visit their store at 1218 King St. or visit their website.