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The Boston Globe

Business

Back Bay could offer Room & Board

Furniture chain seeks Hub location

Phil Mansfield

A living room set from Room & Board, which sells classic and contemporary home furnishings.

Room & Board, a popular Midwest furniture chain, is looking to open its first Massachusetts store in Boston on a prominent corner off Newbury Street.

The Minnesota company is negotiating to take over roughly 40,000 square feet of prime retail space where Newbury meets Massachusetts Avenue that is currently occupied by mattress seller Sleeparama, The Other Side Cafe, and the Island Hopper restaurant, according to the tenants and other real estate officials.

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Room & Board, which sells classic and contemporary home furnishings at 11 stores across the country, has been hunting for a site in Boston for more than a year.

“Upper Newbury Street is a very desirable area between all the retailers and restaurants. Even though it’s on other side of Massachusetts Avenue, it is great exposure for Room & Board with visibility from the Mass. Pike,’’ said Andy LaGrega of the Boston development firm Wilder Cos., who was briefed on the discussions. “The major national and regional furniture players are back into an expansion mode.’’

Katie Lloyd, a spokeswoman for Room & Board, said the retailer has eyed both urban and suburban locations within the Boston market and has not yet committed to a space. Room & Board has shops in other major cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, and New York.

The company, known for having a wide selection of furnishings, prints a coveted annual catalog (344 pages). About 90 percent of the chain’s products are handcrafted in the United States, ranging from $150 hand-printed velvet-and-linen pillows designed by Galbraith & Paul to an $8,200 Eames black leather sofa by Herman Miller.

“We have a strong customer base in the Boston area that would support a retail location,’’ Lloyd said. “Our preference is to re-use and upgrade existing buildings rather than tear them down and start over.’’

Sleeparama is already holding a “Lost Our Lease Moving Sale,’’ though owner David Wayne said he does not know when he and the other tenants need to move.

“It could be one month, it could be six months,’’ he said yesterday.

A manager at The Other Side Cafe said he is not sure when Room & Board is expected to take over the building and declined to comment on when the restaurant would vacate the space. Staff at Island Hopper also did not know the timing.

Room & Board is the latest in a series of furniture chains to negotiate for top locations in the Back Bay. Restoration Hardware, the high-end home furnishings purveyor that left the Back Bay during the recession, has a lease to open a 40,000-plus-square-foot space on Boylston Street that was most recently occupied by LouisBoston. Circle Furniture is planning to open a shop nearby on St. James Avenue later this year. Crate & Barrel maintains a massive store on Boylston Street.

“Expansion in the home furnishing category has been on hold for some time now, so we are thrilled to hear that Boston is attracting these top-notch brands,’’ said Susan Elsbree, a spokeswoman for the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

Jenn Abelson can be reached at abelson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jennabelson.
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