Restoration Hardware Embeds Home Goods In Upscale Retail With 24 locations in 13 states -- and approximately seven more openings on tap for this summer -- Restoration Hardware is beginning to carve out a significant upscale home furnishings niche. By year end, the Eureka, Calif.-based chain is slated to have 40 total units open and operating, with 35 additional units planned for 1998.

For company founder and president Stephen Gordon, Restoration Hardware began an unlikely history in 1980 during Gordon's renovation of a Queen Anne Victorian home.

Founded in 1980 outside San Francisco,Restoration Hardware's retail selling spacefeatures high ceilings, distinctivelighting and separate niches fordifferent product classifications.

"In 1980, the [home renovation market] was fairly slim pickings," says Gordon, noting that his difficulty in finding high-quality home products led him to start his own business. "In my attempt to find the right fixtures, fittings and moldings, I started garnering a slew of resources. So one day I thought, 'If other people are having this much trouble finding materials, why don't I open up a little shop in the home?'"

With 400 sq. ft. set aside for the fledgling company, Gordon has parlayed his home restoration "resources" into a specialty home furnishings retailer. Many years later, Restoration Hardware stores average 12,000 sq. ft.

"We certainly have a strong adherence to the roots of the business, as a resource for people restoring homes," says Gordon, adding that the company carries 650 styles of cabinet knobs and 20 or 30 different selections of towel bars and fittings, among other items.

"But we've added a mix of everything from garden accessories, interior and exterior light fixtures and upholstered furniture to tools and how-to books. It runs the gamut of 'finishing touches' for the home," he says.

The sleek, modern look of Restoration Hardware is the result of a joint effort between Gordon and architect Jessica Seaton of Oakland, Calif.-based Seaton/Wilson Design. The stores features classic wood columns, raised casework and natural wood flooring, as well as high ceilings, distinctive lighting and separate niches for different product classifications.

Gordon says the chain's expansion initiatives will focus on high-quality real estate rather than major market blanketing. "I won't say that geographical expansion is 'Willy-Nilly' because we really focus on great real estate rather than specific geography," he says. "For example, while we're opening a Tampa store [in Old Hyde Park], we don't even have a store in our home base area of San Francisco."

He also notes that, in searching for appropriate sites, the company will look for streetside locations, shopping plazas and enclosed regional centers. The company already has stores at Park Meadows in Denver, Somerset Collection in Troy, Mich., and The Plaza at King of Prussia in King of Prussia, Pa.

"We're finding that our customer loves to come out on the street when there's a great mix of restaurants, shopping and nighttime activity," he says. "But there are a multitude of markets where there is really no good street option. In those particular cases, we will go into enclosed shopping centers, typically the more upper-end venues."

This month, Restoration Hardware will add stores at Sherman Oaks Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks, Calif.; Tyson's Corner in Washington, D.C.; Roosevelt Field Mall in Long Island, N.Y.; Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J.; and Century City in Los Angeles.

Contact: Marc Masinter, The Harberg-Masinter Co., 10000 North Central Expressway, Suite 1060, Dallas, Texas 75231; (214) 750-0011.

Colorado Pen Inks Growth Since its inception in 1988 at a small site in its headquarters city of Denver, The Colorado Pen Co. has found its niche and expanded beyond its roots. According to company president Terry Hordinsky, it took a sharp retail plan and a little tweaking to bring the company to 24 locations in 14 states.

"I think we're very targeted on the sites that we're looking for," says Hordinsky, noting that matching demographics and core products with appropriate real estate is a necessary balancing act. "We know that we sell professional products to professional people. So we have to have real estate that meets that demographic, that has the upper-end professional frequenting the mall," he explains.

Hordinsky says the stores' small footprint made it important to design the selling area with warmer-colored shelving and display cases. "We didn't want the store to feel like it was closing in around the customer [with darker woods]," he explains. "We've used light woodwork, and we've refined the stores' functionality. We've also evolved the concept to give it a library feel, so when customers walk in they experience a very stable, traditional store."

The Colorado Pen Co. has targetedthe southeastern United Statesas one region rich in expansion opportunities.

Luxury writing instruments serve as the foundation for Colorado Pen, complemented by gift items, desk accessories, stationery and personal organization products. The stores feature such notable pen manufacturers as Montblanc, Cross, Waterman, Parker and Sheaffer.

In his expansion plan for Colorado Pen, Hordinsky notes that, among 25 possible sites for next year, the southeastern United States is a region in which the company is very interested. "That's a great, vibrant market down there," he says, noting that Atlanta tops the expansion list. "In 1998, we definitely want to have a presence in the Southeast. At the end of this year [in November] we'll be in Tyson's Corners, which will start us down in that direction."

Hordinsky says next year's expansion schedule will top out at approximately eight to 10 units. He also notes that the company will always leave room for a few choice real estate opportunities that happen to crop up on the horizon.

"We think we're growing at a nice pace, and we're trying to keep all the corporate infrastructure and all theparts and pieces together so that we can continue to grow smart," he says. "We don't want to get out of control where we become a company that grows too quickly [and ends up] losing internal control."

Contact: Terry Hordinsky, president, The Colorado Pen Co. Inc., 2433 Curtis St., Denver, Colo. 80205; (303) 292-0020.

Boston Trading Co. Posts New Retail Presence In March, Needham, Mass.-based Boston Trading Co. made its leap onto the retail scene with simultaneous store debuts in Miami, Atlanta and Braintree, Mass. Since then, the retailer has cropped up in three additional locations: at Natick Mall and on Newbury Street, both in Boston; and at Burlington Mall in Burlington, Mass.

Boston Trading Co. was formed in 1994 when Designs Inc. (operator of more than 150 full-price and outlet stores) acquired Boston Traders, a traditional, New England-flavored sportswear company. According to Mark Lisnow, senior vice president of merchandising for Boston Trading Co., Designs Inc. had been looking for a way to add new dimension to its jeans-driven product line.

Lisnow notes that, while Boston Traders' presence in shopping centers had faded over the years, the company's product line remained strong. "Boston Traders really dominated the [New England sportswear] scene in the early 1970s, with traditional flannels, corduroys and button-downs, always of really good quality," says Lisnow.

"At one time, Boston Traders had a presence in really high-quality specialty and department stores," he adds. "But as the years went on, the company never really was able to change with the business. Designs Inc. purchased the company for the name, quality factor, and to try and complement the company's existing Levi's business."

Boston Trading Co. stores, designed byPompei A.D., New York, use iridium lightingto showcase the company's lineof apparel and accessories, while a bankof plexiglass-encased TV monitorsbroadcast extreme sports footage.

Ron Pompei, president of New York-based Pompei A.D. -- designer of Boston Trading Co., Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters stores -- notes that Boston Trading Co.'s retail space is intended to reflect adaptive reuse of loft or light-industrial space. "You are seeing a lot of downtown revivals, and buildings that were built for one thing are now being turned into something else," he says. "We were trying to reference that in the Boston Trading Co. store design.

"We wanted the space to be open and unpretentious, and to have real materials convey a certain authenticity," he explains. "The idea for the store design came from the concept of space that's been transformed. It reflects the idea that someone can live and work in spaces that were originally programmed for some other use."

In its transformation, says Lisnow, Boston Trading Co. will use a high-tech, open retail environment to showcase its line of apparel and accessories that lands somewhere between The Gap and REI. The stores have touch-screen computers that provide information about store products, local events and restaurants, and banks of TV monitors broadcast extreme sports footage. The stores' iridium lighting changes in conjunction with the video.

"The store is friendly in a technical way, and, at the same time, it has a casual element to it," says Lisnow. "It's minimalistic, with a spacious design that emphasizes shopability."

Lisnow says the company will hold off on expansion until the six existing stores have had time to settle into their surroundings. Following that, he says, expansion should begin in the Northeast.

"What we're doing right now is looking at real estate sites and planning our expansion strategy to take us into 1998 and beyond," he says. "At this point, we want to make sure everything is right. Once we feel we're on the right track, our intent is to roll the concept out nationally."

Contact: Jack Podgur, president, Jack Podgur Real Estate, 245 Washington St., Wellesley, Mass. 02181; (617) 235-0033.