Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Door Store has been at its 940 Massachusetts Ave., Riverside, location in Cambridge since 1970. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The Door Store plans to close its own doors within a few months after more than six decades of business in Cambridge. The store decided to close because of rising costs and lack of business, general manager Dawn Leate said.

“It all came as sort of a shock to everyone,” Leate said of the store’s closing.

Its location at 940 Massachusetts Ave., Riverside, was once a furniture district, with around a dozen stores forming a “furniture store alley.” Over the years, “this place has become a ghost town” with a lot of businesses coming and going, Leate said.

The Door Store will operate until its inventory – which consists of custom furniture, not doors – runs out. After announcing the closing, the store discounted its material costs to half off, but kept the labor costs the same.

Andrew Anisimov, owner of The Door Store. (Photo: Andy Zucker)

Leate, an employee since 2003 who oversees the company finances, said the store “really ran out of money last Monday,” with only enough money for two more weeks of payroll. A “boom of business” since announcing the closing may extend payroll. 

Owner Andrew Anisimov said the store was now going “full throttle,” with every employee at work selling and in the workshop “because the customers are coming in.”

During Covid, lots of people were furnishing home offices, and desks were a hot item, but that boom ran out, said Nancy Gold, wife of owner Anisimov, in a post on social media.

The decline began in 2022, with the store doing about one-third its usual business while the cost of goods sold rose 40 percent and payroll increased 30 percent, Leate said. It’s the same year a bike lane was installed and 18 parking spaces were removed from The Door Store’s block, which Leate said contributed to the business problems.

The store’s loading zone moved down the street – and drivers parked in it illegally.  

“People already complained about the parking here,” Leate said. The Door Store’s clientele consists of a mature crowd who like to drive to the store and shop in person, Leate said, and they are unable to shop without parking.

Although Leate sees the value in bike lanes, she wishes the city created “more cognizant urban planning.”

Items for sale at The Door Store. (Photo: Andy Zucker)

While Anisimov put some of his own money into the store to pay employees, Leate tried to combat the decline in sales, offering store promotions and creating an online store where customers could mix and match features to mimic the customization of shopping in-person. No sales came from the online storefront.

The store is well known among Cambridge residents, but regular customers are uncommon. “The downside of our furniture is that it lasts,” Leate said with a laugh. (One of the responses to Gold’s online post was from a customer, who remarked, “I bought a chair in the store 50 years ago and still have it and use it.”)

Some of the many tabletops from which to choose at The Door Store. (Photo: Andy Zucker)

The flood of customers suggests there are ways to make retail work despite the loss of parking, though the closing coincides with Anisimov clearing out a family house that has resulted in a bigger than usual amount of lampshades and knickknacks for sale – the kinds of things people walking by might spot and be able to walk off with in a bag. Still, the store is also selling “some chairs and larger things,” Anisimov said Tuesday, some using the loading zone by the store and others improvising. “We won’t let them block the bike lane, but people are find ways to quickly enough load up,” he said.

“I don’t know if ‘bowled over’ is the right term, but the amount of support we are getting – about ‘what a great place this is’ and from people who like to tell me how they bought something here a long time ago – I’m almost speechless with emotion,” Anisimov said.

Though the store opened in 1959 in The Garage mall in Harvard Square, the Anisimovs bought its current building in 1970, and Anisimov and Gold live in it over the store, Gold said.

Leate will continue to create custom furniture through her home improvement company, DJ Designs. She hopes to bring some of Door Store employees along and keep “the merry band of Door Store employees” together.