Ten months after a fire started next door, Brooke Wolf stood in the Arapahoe Square building that houses her family’s office furniture company, looking back through photos of the day.
“It was just a mess,” she said.
While the June 3 fire in an adjacent abandoned building didn’t breach Merchants Office Furniture’s property at 2261 N. Broadway, it caused severe smoke and water damage. Support beams were broken, the roof needed replacing, the shared property wall was damaged and nearly everything inside had to be tossed out.
“We actually thought long and hard about whether or not it made sense to stay or go,” Wolf said.
But the company did ultimately decide to renovate and return. On Thursday, as the Colorado Rockies play their first home game of the season, Merchants will welcome clients back to the building the company has owned for more than a half century.
“It’s a big part of who we are as a business and our brand,” Wolf said. “We are very connected with this community.”
Merchants was founded by Wolf’s grandfather, Marvin Sanders, in 1940. The company bought the 18,000 square-feet space on Broadway in the 1960s and has operated a warehouse, showroom and office there ever since. Wolf now co-owns the business with her father, Richard Sanders, and siblings Jynx Messacar, Zack Sanders and Lexi McCann.
The Denver Fire Department was unable to determine the specific cause of that June fire, although a department spokesman told BusinessDen the building had frequent homeless traffic.
Forced to move out, Merchants leased space on a month-to-month basis at 1881 35th St. in RiNo, as the company’s insurance paid for Abbotts Fire and Flood to undertake restoration along Broadway.
Merchant’s goal was to remain fully operational in its temporary space – the company furnished community office space to serve as mini showrooms – but Wolf said it was “not the same.”
While Merchants had its highest annual revenue to date in 2022 of $20 million, Wolf said that’s because design projects have long life cycles, meaning most deals were signed in 2021 before the fire.
“We have seen a noticeable slowdown since December,” Wolf said. “Although the decrease is minor, not having our physical space to tour clients and meet our network is certainly having an impact.”
The showroom reopens for scheduled tours and walk-ins this week, and Merchants employees will gradually move back, Wolf said.
“It’s quite a bit longer than we expected,” Wolf said of the restoration process. “But that had everything to do with the state of the property next door. It had been in that state of a collapsed building – with all sorts of fire debris, open asbestos, everything – up until two months ago.”
In fact, Wolf said four separate smaller fires started in the adjacent building between June and February, when the structure was demolished. Wolf believes they were from people trying to cook food in the building.
“The public sector … like the Mayor’s Office and the fire department, really helped move it along,” Wolf said, referring to demolition. “I honestly think that was the pivotal shift in us getting to come home.”
Wolf said clients can expect the showroom to look the same, but the company took this opportunity to renovate and refresh everything. Nearly all of the furniture is new, and cosmetic upgrades to the building are planned.
Merchants employs roughly 40 people, half on the design and project management side and half on the installation side. While the company sells products nationwide, roughly 75 percent of its business comes from the Denver area.
“I hope that it’s become obvious, our love for the neighborhood … that’s why we’re coming back,” Wolf said. “We wanna be here another 60 years.”