When GoodWood first opened, the U Street antiques shop was an anomaly.
“It was one of the first stores on U Street,” owner Anna Kahoe says. “The neighborhood was just beginning to change then, and slowly things opened up around us. It was the beginning of the D.C. we see now.”
Two decades later, business is booming in the U Street neighborhood, but GoodWood is still unusual as a vintage emporium amid the clubs, restaurants and bars.
The store, at 1428 U St. NW, has helped bridge the gap between the flea market world and antiques world in the 20 years since its opening in 1994. The core goal, Kahoe says, is to give old furniture a new life while keeping it reasonably priced.
“You find a 100-year-old piece but look at it with fresh eyes,” Kahoe says. “It’s historic and it has a sense of place, but it’s casual, it’s affordable and it’s less expensive than buying new.”
Kahoe, 47, and her husband, Dan, 50, work together to help interior designers and weekend browsers find those pieces. Dan will go to two or three auctions a week and bring back roughly 60 pieces of furniture, unloading them on Thursdays for the weekend rush. Some of the pieces get cleaned up and/or need minor repairs. Most are left as they were found.
The whole staff gathers on the delivery day to help, Anna Kahoe says, and there’s a fun, collaborative atmosphere in the store; the weekly ritual that has been the same for many years.
“It’s like prom every week,” she says.
So after 20 years, what’s new?
For one thing, the clientele: The U Street of the mid-’90s didn’t lend itself to casual shoppers strolling the sidewalks and browsing furniture. Store hours used to be limited to Thursday nights through the weekend, Kahoe says, when “people would come on a mission, in need of a desk or a chest.” But since the early 2000s the shop has been open seven days a week, to cater to the growing sidewalk traffic.
The customers are also younger, Kahoe says. Young professional women are now the store’s strongest demographic, with the income for clothes and accessories but not necessarily the desire to buy an armoire. So GoodWood now carries clothing, candles and housewares.
“I love clothes,” Kahoe says. “Young women in their 20s love clothes. They are moving apartment to apartment and aren’t buying lots of furniture yet. If we had more of what young professional women wanted, they would buy it from us. So we changed and adapted to that. It’s not your grandma’s antique store, unless your grandma is really hip.”
When it came to technology, though, the Kahoes were slower to adapt. They bought a computer and printer only a few years ago. For years the staff would write price tags for each item by hand. But still, with a constantly changing inventory, the Kahoes aren’t interested in maintaining a store on the Internet. Much of what they love about running GoodWood, Kahoe says, is having a bricks-and-mortar space and face-to-face interaction with customers.
“We have a Web page, and you can see a sampling of what we have on our Web page, but it’s an invitation to come in,” Kahoe says. “We’re not set up to sell online. We’re not interested in selling online. We want to see you in the store.”
Over time, the Kahoes’ design aesthetic and tastes have changed slightly, she says, but much of what she and her husband are drawn to (classic wood dressers, textiles and more) has remained the same.
“I wanted to seem more adult when I was younger,” Kahoe says. “I liked the all-mahogany look in an all-white room. But I think I’ve learned a lot more about eclecticism and mixing and matching. I also love layering.”
There are also trends from the 1990s that Kahoe used to loathe that she is now drawn to; a line of art deco-style furniture from Ralph Lauren that she called “grandma-y” comes to mind.
“That was the late ’90s,” Kahoe says. “I thought it was frumpy. Now I love it.”
Jerry Copeland, a D.C. resident for 43 years and co-founder of design firm CopelandDougan Interiors, has been a GoodWood customer since it opened. “I think they have incredible eyes for picking out vintage stuff,” he says.
The store has a bohemian vibe, Copeland says — the kind of place you could find in London, Brooklyn or San Francisco. Retail in Washington has changed for the better in the past few years, he says, which often surprises clients and visitors from out of town who don’t expect to find style in the nation’s capital.
“D.C. has always been a C-class food city, and it’s always been B-class or C-class for retail,” Copeland says. “That’s changed a lot. GoodWood has been part of that.”