11411 Sunset Hills Rd., Reston, Virginia
AFTER SIX SUCCESSFUL years in business, Urban Retreat owner Cynthia Schneider finds herself taking more time to enjoy the color gray, admire streamlined furniture styles and better cater to her legion of devoted customers and store fans.
It was 5:00 pm’ish somewhere in Southern California as Urban Retreat chic furniture store owner Cynthia Schneider pulled over to take my call. “I’m so sorry to do this (interview) over the phone while in the car,” Schneider lamented. “No apologies required,” I shared. I was grateful for the time to connect and believed Schneider’s own customers would be just as grateful to know she spent most of her day furniture shopping on the West coast exclusively with them in mind.
Based in Reston, Urban Retreat is a “wholesale retail furniture warehouse offering low-cost, custom made residential furniture.” Well, at least that’s what the Urban Retreat web site says. Schneider, however, just explains it so much better: “We’re not your typical retail store,” she explains. “We like to tell people what we are not right from the start. And being of the ‘anti-retail’ store mentality, we don’t have traditional retail hours, we don’t work off of commissions, and we don’t have sales people following customers around the floor. What we do have are really unique furniture pieces, great service, friendly and informative staff and lower prices in comparison to larger stores.”
It took some time for Schneider to see value and beauty in what her shop is not. “In the beginning,” she recounts, “I used to drive myself crazy trying to be all things to all people. I tried to offer all kinds of furniture pieces. I carried dining sets and entertainment centers as well as sofas and couches. Now, I realize, we simply can’t be relevant to all customers.” This reality is one Schneider feels completely at peace with and acknowledges she’s learned to “let go” and focus on creating the best shopping experience for Urban Retreat customers. “I fully recognize our store may not be for everyone. Someone looking to sit on every couch, for example, may be disappointed to learn we don’t carry every furniture piece in our store. Others seeking a more traditional retail experience may fare better shopping for furniture elsewhere and that is totally okay.”
These days, Schneider’s more “chilled out” mode is a very welcomed pace. “After six years in business, I find I’m more relaxed about approaching our customers. I feel an increased confidence about keeping things simple. I think customers enjoy our straightforward approach and appreciate our honesty and down-to-earth nature. And I realize our focus must be on excelling at what we do best.” And if you ask Schneider what that might be, she’ll proudly state: “Upholstery!
We are really good at upholstery. We’re also very good about accessorizing and finding highly unique furniture pieces that really just make a room.” Something else Schneider feels more adept at these days is the ability to better describe to customers specific details regarding textures, fabrics and furniture styles. She humorously admits her knowledge today is in sharp contrast to six years ago when she first started this “whole Urban Retreat thing.” Schneider recalls how she first began the business with zero experience. “If I haven’t yet told you, I’m not a designer. I don’t have a business degree and I hadn’t previously sold furniture prior to opening my store,” she shared. “One of my favorite pastimes then was perusing through furniture catalogs. I just had a passion for furniture and loved furniture shopping. I literally started my business from a point of limited knowledge and experience beyond my own talent and interests. And my business plan? Well, I didn’t really have one. I literally had hoped all would work itself out on its own.” And so it was with a wing and prayer – and limitless passion – that Schneider found herself opening up her first store way back when. “I rented a small warehouse, packed it to the gills with furniture pieces and waited all day for customers to arrive and shop.” Little did she know, she admitted, that there’s a little thing called marketing: “I was very committed but inexperienced and within a short while, I realized I had to get the word out about my store to generate interest and sales.”
Somehow, Schneider’s chic furniture warehouse efforts were discovered by DailyCandy.com, an online news blog highlighting unique destinations for shopping, dining and recreation in major U.S. cities. “After Daily Candy spotlighted us in one of their Washington, D.C. editions as a cool place for finding home decor items on the cheap, my little warehouse and I were deluged with customers. It’s pretty much just been a crazy and super fun adventure ever since.”
Today, Schneider and her store have come a long, long way. “We have really talented staff and experienced designers available to help customers better visualize possibilities. And our designers provide both in-store and in-home consultation services which adds immense value to our customers’ shopping experience,” states Schneider, who now feels far more knowledgeable about drapery, fabrics and furniture trends than ever before.
And if anyone has seen local home decor trends come and go in the past few years, it would be Schneider. “Customers today are looking for very clean, straight lines in furniture,” she explains. “They don’t want rolled arms on couches anymore; the straighter the arm, the better.” The Urban Retreat proprietor also discloses that while taupes and neutrals are always popular, the ‘in’ color now is actually gray! “Customers just can’t get enough of gray. We’ve had to increase our gray fabric selections in varying tones of gray to keep up with the demand.”
Urban Retreat is a Reston-based, chic furniture warehouse offering low-cost, custom made residential furniture.
- Address 11411 Sunset Hills Rd., Reston, Virginia
- Category Home & Design
- Location RESTON