The ascent of the big-box retailer hasn't been kind to elite writing instrument makers like the A.T. Cross Co. “With the demise of the small stationery store and the rise of the superstore, Cross had lost control of the way its product was presented,” says Boston architect David Hacin, AIA. As part of its rebranding and repositioning strategy, the company hired his firm to design a prototype store for its products, which include pens, writing pads, and small leather goods.
Having already designed several shops for the skin-care company Fresh, Hacin knew the value of a space that can easily adapt to varying product lines and presentation formats. His Cross store, on Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., consists of three main elements: a “pen wall” displaying the company's signature product in a colorful, well-lit grid; a “bookcase wall” containing individual desk vignettes; and a bin in the middle of the store showcasing writing accessories. Much of the shelving can be pulled out and reconfigured, and in the pen wall the colored acrylic panels flip to reveal a different color on the reverse side.
Materials reminiscent of mid-century Modern design (laminate, terrazzo tiled floors, steel, and wood) enhance Cross's overall message, as do furnishings inspired by the same era. “That whole mid-century period was very functional and utilitarian,” says Lily Gordon, president of Cross Retail Ventures. “A lot of what we're offering today is about utility and lifestyle.” For his part, Hacin likens his store design to a custom-home commission. “In private residential work, we do a lot of custom-built furniture to organize people's stuff. This store is doing just that—it's organizing product in a clear, modern way.” Now it's doing so in two places: A second version of the prototype just opened in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
project: Cross Retail Store, Cambridge, Mass.
architect: Hacin + Associates, Boston
contractor: Shawmut Design and Construction, Boston
project size: 600 square feet
construction cost: Withheld
photos: Bob O'Connor