Warehouse District is new showroom's 'destination'

Step into the new showroom that Inspire Workplace Interiors is preparing to open in downtown Cleveland's Warehouse District, and you may get a back-to-the future feeling.

The storefront space is carefully curated with samples of modern office furniture, from sit-to-stand desks to a new version of cubicles with whiteboard backstops and even a medical examination room.

It's arrayed in a retail space at 1382 W. Ninth St. in the Crittenden Block Building, which dates from 1868, when it was built for Cleveland jeweler N.E. Crittenden. Structural wood columns topped with ornate capitals typical of the period line the suite, some revealed anew when old drywall was shed during remodeling.

John Quinones, Inspire's vice president, said, "We are hoping to present our customers with a showroom that is itself an essential destination. Inspire is attempting to marry Midwest charm with clean, modern design sensibilities. The Warehouse District is the perfect venue for that."

Inspire is a new division and brand launched by Brook Park-based National Office, a 50-year-old manufacturer of its own office furniture as well as an office furniture retailer. The Inspire brand is designed to reflect the increasing sophistication of the workspace furnishings business to foster creativity while matching various needs of the workspace.

At the same time, the showroom went into the old building in the city's Warehouse District because "it's so typical of Cleveland," Quinones said.

The firm also landed in the evolving residential and entertainment district because it has lots of parking nearby, not only on the street but at surrounding lots. Inspire arranged for customers to receive free parking validated by the company at the lot across the street on the southeast corner of West Ninth and St. Clair Avenue.

Accessibility is a big reason the new division set up shop downtown.

Quinones said that its major competitors are all downtown or in nearby neighborhoods, and what he considers the short drive to Brook Park and its predecessor working showroom cost it chances to visit prospective clients.

"Architects told us that they have so little time with some of their clients that they couldn't stop by," Quinones said, which should not be the case now.

The space includes a café created with cabinets where he looks forward to hosting lunches and coffees. The space demonstrates how many pieces of furniture can be put together by designers to create custom spaces for clients, he said.

Among the features is a cubicle wall that clients may customize that Inspire had covered with pieces of wood to tie into the wood floors that the company had the landlord restore to their original state.

The customizable wall unit, called Narrate, is produced by Kimball. Inspire is a Kimball dealer, and it handles other office suppliers.

Previously the 5,000-square-foot office was occupied by a Greek restaurant, the latest in a long line of tenants that dates back to the original jeweler as well as shoe, spice and millinery companies.

Several layers of wall coverings and grease spatters had to be removed to restore the space's original brick walls, Quinones said.

Thomas Starinsky, associate director of the Historic Warehouse District Development Corp., said landing Inspire was a welcome chance to diversify the retail space in the district, which the nonprofit hopes to capitalize on in the future. Such space often is devoted to bars or eateries.

The new showroom will open in early September. Quinones said it will be staffed by five people including himself and open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. A library is in the center of the suite devoted to catalogs, next to a table where clients can spread out fabric samples.

"This," Quinones said, "is where it all comes together."