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Lakewood entrepreneur designs homes, friendships

Photo by Sue Botos – David Stein relaxes in the showroom of Plantation Home.

 

By SUE BOTOS

LAKEWOOD- As president of the Downtown Lakewood Business Alliance and Grand Marshal of this year’s July 4th parade, David Stein knows the importance of building long-term relationships. When the owner of Plantation Home opened Cotton four years ago, his second store on Detroit Avenue, a call from a former colleague brought him the store manager.

“I got a call from a woman I worked with me at the Gap in the 1980s,” recalled Stein, seated on a couch in the bright showroom of Plantation Home, his unique home design and accessory business. “She said, ‘I saw on your website that you’re opening a new store.’ So I asked her if she needed a job and she said, ‘As a matter of fact, I do.’”

Cindy Davis, who manages Cotton, is one of the many friends and connections Stein has made over a career that started at J.L. Goodman interiors in Lakewood, where the has lived since 1989.

“I progressed very quickly from manager to buyer to department head,” said the Elyria native, who graduated from Bowling Green State University with an interior design degree. But after five years, he became restless, moving from retail to wholesale at the Design Centre in Beachwood. It was this combination of experiences that provided the catalyst for Stein starting own business.

“It tells me I’ve got a guardian angel watching over me because (the experience) gave me insight on both retail and wholesale,” Stein added,” I always knew I wanted to have my own store, I just never knew what that would entail.”

Stein’s partner converted the attic of their Lakewood home into an office, where Stein worked for three years. One of his first clients was a former J.L. Goodman customer. “She was a huge catalyst and a good motivator. We’re still friends. She was very fair but very tough.”

But Stein needed more than working out of the attic. So he opened a small shop on Lorain Road across from St. Ignatius Church in Cleveland. But a historic building on the corner of Detroit and Lincoln roads in Lakewood caught his designer’s eye in 2001.

The main level of the former Lakewood Fireproof Moving and Storage Company, constructed about 1913, was basically a big empty concrete shell, he said. Stein, his partner and a contractor built out what would turn into Plantation Home, a name he chose because of his love of Charleston, S.C., where he would often vacation.

Friends and family, even his parents, helped paint and install the hardwood floor. Stein pointed out that he hand finished all of the woodwork.

“There’s no manual, and nobody sends you any guidelines on what to do,” Stein reflected. “I remember opening the store and not knowing anything, but I knew what I liked and I knew what I wanted to do.”

Old connections made at J.L. Goodman’s came to support his venture. “The furniture industry is funny, in that people stay in it for the long term,” he said.

Eventually, Stein expanded his inventory to table accessories and linens during the holidays, but all 4,000 square feet of Plantation Home was full. So Stein looked across the street to the historic Bailey Buick building, recently vacated by the staff of former Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

“The owners of the building were our design clients, and we asked what them what they wanted to do with the front of the building,” recalled Stein. Soon, a lease agreement was arranged and Stein along with family and friends set to work again, preserving stained glass windows, woodwork and ceiling.

“Everything is mostly cotton, about 90 percent,” Stein said.

“The response has been good, he said.

“We have a great clientele from around the area and beyond,” he said. “We’re a destination store.”

The proposed development of the former Lakewood Hospital site, which is just a block away, has him “incredibly, positively anxious.” He called the hospital a retail “dead zone.”

“If it’s done right, it can mean even more for us as a destination retailer at this end of the city,” he said. “This offers an opportunity to bridge the two ends of the downtown and give our street car community the possibility of having a town square; a heart of downtown.”

All of the recent retail and restaurant additions makes the future of Lakewood look very positive, he said. He credits this boom, in part to the wide diversity of Lakewood.

But, he cautions, starting a business takes savvy and dedication.

“It’s not a hobby,” he said. “You’d better love what you’re doing because you’re going to spend a lot of time doing it.”

 

 

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