A Nicholson Drive warehouse has been transformed into a home for seven local lifestyle and design businesses, one of the first new developments along the corridor connecting downtown and LSU.
1010 Nic, which is an abbreviated version of the development’s address, recently opened. The nearly 20,000-square-foot building houses Monochrome, a modern lifestyle store; The Front Door, an interior design firm; Contemporain, an art gallery; Denicola’s, an upholstery and design business; Noelie Harmon, a boutique that sells environmentally friendly and locally made gifts; Jeannie Frey Rhodes, a photography studio; and Mercer Supply Co., a barber and salon.
“We love the whole warehouse feeling,” said Shannon Smith, one of the owners of 1010 Nic and Monochrome. “Everyone kind of vibes off each other.”
Smith and her husband, Andrew, along with the other owners of Monochrome, Carol LaCour and Mitchell Naquin, bought the warehouse in January 2014 for $600,000.
“We had been looking at Nicholson for a long time,” said Naquin, sitting back in the modern showroom at Monochrome a few days before the business opened. “When the building came up, we wanted it, we jumped on it.”
The building, which LaCour said was built in the 1930s, had housed Montalbano Produce and most recently was a warehouse and distribution center for St. Vincent de Paul.
“It was one of the cool old buildings in Baton Rouge, and we don’t have that many,” she said.
It took months of work and an undisclosed amount of money to turn the warehouse into what first appears to be a sleek contemporary building. While the exterior of 1010 Nic is a flat black color, the old warehouse roots are still visible on the inside, with exposed red brick and high ceilings.
“We wanted to keep the whole feel of the warehouse and preserve the character of it,” Smith said.
Naquin said the Nicholson Drive corridor was appealing because it is one of the only areas in the city “with remotely an urban feel.”
“For the last 10 years, this area is where we expected things to happen,” he said.
Now, some of the long-discussed developments along the Nicholson Drive corridor are finally starting to take shape. Next to 1010 Nic, work has started on the Water Campus, which will be a center for river, coastal and delta research.
Federal transportation officials have provided $1.8 million in grant funds and technical assistance to study the possibility of establishing a streetcar line that would run along the corridor connecting downtown and LSU.
The 34.8-acre River District mixed-use development, centered around Magnolia Mound, has been permitted by city-parish officials, but Goldman Sachs Bank wants to auction off the property because it says Lafayette businessman Michel Moreno used the land as security for a $52.4 million loan that he later defaulted on.
The recent activity along Nicholson led other businesses to consider moving into 1010 Nic. The space is fully leased and the owners had a number of potential tenants to choose from.
LaCour said she had “lots of calls” after it was announced she had purchased the building. “We were very careful about picking the people who came here,” she said. The goal was to bring in businesses that could complement each other. For example, a person going to Mercer Supply for a haircut may duck into Monochrome and buy something for the home.
All of the businesses, except for Contemporain, a new business, and Mercer Supply, which has a salon on Highland Road across from the Country Club of Louisiana, relocated from other parts of the city to move into 1010 Nic. Monochrome, The Front Door and Jeannie Frey Rhodes had all been based in the Southdowns Village Shopping Center, Denicola’s had been on Government Street and Noelie Harmon had a location near the Perkins Road Overpass.
Kristy Kernan, of Denicola’s, said the reaction from customers about the move has been good so far. Denicola’s and Noelie Harmon, both owned by Amy Strother, share a space in the building.
“We love the space,” Kernan said. “It’s so much bigger than our last spot.”
Jordan Padilla, operations manager for Mercer Supply, said the business decided to open a second location to accommodate customers and potential customers who live downtown, near LSU or in Mid City.
“We’re thrilled to death with this location,” Padilla said. “We’re excited to see what is going on around here and to see this building coming to life.”
The owners said the goal of 1010 Nic is for it to develop into a hub for design. Plans are underway to have parties and gatherings at the building, tied to events like art gallery openings and LSU football games.
“We would like for this to be a place where people come and hang out,” LaCour said. “We want to put in more shade to give it more of a city feel.”
Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.