Archive for Thursday, September 30, 2010

Former home to Arensberg Shoes set to become home to furniture store, art shop

A new interior design and furniture store has become the first tenant for the former Arensberg Shoes building, 825 Mass. BIAO Designs, a new home interior and home store, is the first storefront business at the newly redesigned building.

A new interior design and furniture store has become the first tenant for the former Arensberg Shoes building, 825 Mass. BIAO Designs, a new home interior and home store, is the first storefront business at the newly redesigned building.

September 30, 2010


One of downtown Lawrence’s larger vacant buildings is beginning to fill up.

A new interior design and furniture store has become the first tenant for the former Arensberg Shoes building, 825 Mass., and plans are in the works for longtime downtown art shop The Phoenix Gallery to fill the rest of the ground-floor space.

The building’s owner — Lawrence orthodontist Dan Ranjbar — vowed not to rent the building out to a restaurant or bar when he began remodeling it last year, and he said the task of finding retailers wasn’t as hard as he thought.

“I’m convinced people really are getting tired of the ‘mallization’ of America,” Ranjbar said. “I think retail is going to continue to have a great future in downtown.”

But Ranjbar said it does take a certain mindset on the part of landlords. Ranjbar said he had to turn down several proposals from restaurants that wanted to locate in the three-story building.

Ranjbar also admits the way he landed The Phoenix Gallery, 919 Mass., as a tenant was a bit unusual. He bought the business in August after learning that its owners were looking to exit the business. He said he plans to move the store in early 2011.

Already open in the building is BIAO Designs, a new interior design and home store. Owner Donna Steinman said she started making arrangements to move in soon after Ranjbar had started renovations on the building, which at one time was the city’s Montgomery Ward store.

“I just fell in love with the space,” Steinman said.

Steinman and her husband moved to Lawrence in late 2009 from Idaho. The couple, though, previously had lived in Chanute. They landed in Lawrence after selling a successful circuit board company and becoming intrigued by Lawrence’s reputation.

“We really were just looking for a place to start a second career,” Steinman said.

The business — BIAO stands for Beautiful Inside and Out — not only sells furniture and home goods, but also offers interior design services. For a negotiated fee, the store will send a designer to your home for a two-hour consultation, and then will create a detailed budget on how you can outfit your home over the next year.

“We think it is really the way everybody should shop for furniture because it saves you a lot of time and you end up getting what really works for you,” said Rynette Reiling, a designer for the store.

Ranjbar, who restored the original window openings in the Art Deco building and refurbished its original maple floors, hopes to attract at least one more business to the site. He’s added a new direct entrance to the basement of the building, and is marketing the space as a good location for a bookstore or coffee shop.

He’s also building three high-end apartments on the third floor.

“We’re finishing them in a way that they will be on par with what you would expect in a $400,000 condo,” Ranjbar said.


Bassetlover 7 years, 7 months ago

BIAO is fabulous!!! Extremely affordable prices, huge array of decor styles to suit every taste, helpful staff, and a beautiful space. I hope they do extremely well!

7 years, 7 months ago

Awesome, I've been wondering about them but haven't had a chance to personally check it out. if you want, you can leave a review of this place on our site

thanks! -Adrian Jacobs Digital Advertising Operations Lawrence Journal-World

pizzapete 7 years, 7 months ago

This should last about 6 months unless their intent is not to make a living from it. Just saying, furniture is a hard sell in Lawrence. Hope it works out though, better than another bar downtown.

Grump 7 years, 7 months ago

Does this mean it will stop catching on fire?

booyalab 7 years, 7 months ago

They should have named it Beautiful And Inside Out, then I'd have a better guess as to how to pronounce the acronym.

rumor_man 7 years, 7 months ago

I don't think you're a "Number_1_Grandma" after a comment like that.

he_who_knows_all 7 years, 7 months ago

So after the Phoenix Gallery moves will there old location become a bar?

sunflowerhue 7 years, 7 months ago

This store is competing with another area store and knowing a bit about the history, me thinks some of the comments on here sound like sour grapes! Rynette has helped me with two of my homes and she has been fantastic. She has great ideas and everyone loves her because she is so warm and never pressures you. She remembers your home, your needs for your place, and is very helpful. I LOVE BIAO Designs!

throwdown_wallet 7 years, 7 months ago

I checked it out last week and was very impressed. Lots of style and everyone was very helpful and friendly. Dr. Ranjbar has done a great job with the building, too.

Bassetlover 7 years, 7 months ago

Rynette has a wonderful personality and can sell ice to the Eskimos! She has also helped me put together some groupings that I loved! She isn't pushy, always super friendly. That other "area store" needs to pump up their customer service levels, especially on Sunday afternoons when the owners aren't there. Standing behind the counter gabbing about the parties they went to last night and ignoring the customers is going to impact their bottom line. A personality like Rynette's is greatly needed there! Also, I don't think of BIAO as a furniture store, but more of a home decor store. I don't think they need to worry about Nebraska Furniture Mart.

Shane Garrett 7 years, 7 months ago

Well, at least they got all that asbestos out of the boiler room. Not sure about the rest, such as the old plaster walls. Best of Luck. I went to Neb. Furniture Mart and could not find a couch I liked. So perhaps BIAO will carry timeless fashion with soft cumphy cusioning.

mr_right_wing 7 years, 7 months ago

I realize some of you are above this, but....

Take a little tour around neighborhood dumpsters where college students live when semesters are over; you can find some 'like new' furniture and the like. I guess some of these students are well enough off that they'd rather throw stuff away than move it. (I'm talking around / outside the dumpsters, not 'dumpster-diving')

You kinda need to watch the weather though....don't want to pick up anything that's been rained on (mildew.) Or anything that might have been sitting out more than a day or two (bugs/rodents).

jayhawkjbs 7 years, 7 months ago

BIAO Designs is fabulous! It is more about home interior and design, not just a furniture store. NFM won't hurt them a bit! I too know some of the "history" behind this new store; so I agreee that there may be some sour grapes posting the negative comments on here! Check it out! It's here to stay!

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