New in town
|By ALLAN I. ROSS|
Bradly's Home and GardenOld Town’s Thelma Joyce Osteen Comfort Station — or, colloquially, simply “the Comfort Station” — turns 98 this year. The building has varied in utility over the years from a public restroom (its original use, hence that unassuming moniker and its location next to the now-defunct train tracks) to the headquarters for the North Lansing Community Association. But this week it’s getting two new tenants: The Michigan Historic Preservation Network, which seems like a perfect fit, and Bradly’s Home and Garden, a home décor store which will vastly expand in size from its previous location.
Brad Rakowski, 47, opened Bradly’s Home and Garden in October 2011 inside Absolute Gallery, two doors down. On Friday, he moves into the new space on the first floor of the Comfort Station; he will occupy the front half, and Michigan Historic Preservation Network will occupy the back half and the entire second floor.
“There is so much character to the old building,” Rakowski said. “It sums up my whole design philosophy of transforming urban space. That’s the best thing about using existing buildings — all it needed was a few small changes to go from something that was beat up to something spectacular.”
The Comfort Station is a contributing resource within the North Lansing Historic Commercial District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is therefore protected by Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Officers, which means that Rakowski can’t make any changes to the building’s exterior, including adding any kind of permanent signage.
“It’s going to be pretty challenging to make my shop work with limitations like that,” he said. “There are many things I can’t do, and had to get approval for what I did do.”
Gary Scheuren, programs director for Michigan Historic Preservation Network, said that exterior work on the building included window restoration and making the building barrier-free by replacing the sidewalk on the side that faces the train tracks. On the interior, a wheelchair lift and some new restrooms were added, and the formerly open-air second floor was converted into separate offices, a boardroom and a kitchenette.
But every business needs a sign. Rakowski solved that problem by creating a flag, which he says he’s pleased with. As for the space, 500 square feet is a lot of room to play with.
“That’s still tiny, but it’s triple the space I had in (Absolute Gallery),” Rakowski said. “And that extra space is allowing me to expand my lines.”
His selection includes art, a variety of home décor items, and handmade, high quality furniture. New items include “naughty” cards, exfoliating soap made with sand from Lake Michigan, artisan jewelry, new and antique flatware, gourmet dog treats from a bakery in Ludington and children’s toys from Georgia.
“I’ve also supplied bridal and wedding supplies for 20 years, but I just never promoted it,” Rakowski said. “Now I’ll be able to expand my expertise in that area as well.”
Rakowski, who’s married to Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope, moved to Lansing when he was 18. He studied merchandising and interior and fashion design. He worked for “quite a few” fashion businesses in town before opening his own space in Absolute Gallery two years ago. He said he has no set plans for an official grand opening, but said he will most likely piggyback on Michigan Historic Preservation Network´s open house, which Scheuren said is planned for sometime in late spring.
Bradly’s Home and Garden