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Retail Design in Richmond Part I: Need Supply and Black Swan Books

Need Supply Co.

Architect: BAM Architects
Dates: 2007-2010
Address: 3100 West Cary Street 23221

Black Swan Books

Architect: BAM Architects
Dates: 2003
Address: 2601 West Main Street

Since 1996, Need Supply Co. has dealt in boutique women’s and menswear from its store in Richmond. Over the years, it has developed a large online presence. Recently, it was named as one of the 25 Best menswear stores in the nation by GQ magazine. This accolade is due largely to the items that Need Supply carries but, as the article made clear, the aesthetic of the store itself was a large factor in the decision.

Need Supply Co. is headquartered in Carytown, the city’s most fashionable shopping district. Its corner site consists of a low, brick building with a large, cantilevered overhang. The building was given a thorough renovation by Richmond-based BAM Architects before Need was able to move in.

The result is easily one of the most striking and contemporary commercial spaces in Richmond. Exterior brick was stripped leaving its rough texture exposed; wood and steel structural features were given the same treatment. Handsome clothes racks, lighting fixtures, and casework complements the architecture. The company’s spare graphic design and signage program completes a total aesthetic that is as much about what isn’t there as what is.

Black Swan Books, another BAM Architects project several blocks away in the Fan District, takes a more traditional approach. Serifed fonts adorn the facade and packed bookcases fill the room. Upon closer observation, many similarities between Black Swan and Need Supply can be seen.  Exposed ductwork and raw materials are a constant though in this context they complement worn leather binding and blonde wood moldings rather than spare clothing displays. Black Swan’s extensive collection of rare books is housed in contemporary casework.



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  • James Cooke

    Nice article! Two things worth noting on the Black Swan Books project; BAM was awarded a Golden Hammer for their efforts and 510 Architects_Builders ( designed and built the front ramp and handrail.

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