- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 17, 2011

The eclectic collection inside Ruff & Ready Furnishings rivals Mary Poppins’ carpet bag and perhaps some museum warehouses. But the longtime U Street Corridor fixture has served bargain-hunting shoppers no matter what their design taste.

Though Aug. 31 will mark 20 years of business in the District for Ruff & Ready, it also will be the store’s last day at 1908 14th St. Northwest.

Owner Bill Troy said Sunday he received a letter in May from the building owner stating he had three months to close shop.

“I’m looking at it as an opportunity,” he said while taking a break from helping customers haul their heavy purchases to waiting cars. “I’ll be able to clear out 20 years of accumulation.”

Mr. Troy said the average life of a sale item is four weeks, which means few items if anything in the store are 20 years old.

“We’ve really had the luxury of a lot of space,” he said. “This is a tradition unto itself.”

The store’s contents will until next month remain jammed into the building’s first floor - and basement and back patio.

Clocks and mirrors cover the walls. And sale cabinets are put to use holding small tin boxes and figurines also looking for a good home.

“I’ve got an eye for a good piece of junk,” Mr. Troy said with a wink. “I know what will sell,” which includes the odd phone booth and 6-foot-long stuffed snow leopard he recently sold.

Mr. Troy lives in the neighborhood and is the third Ruff & Ready owner. He joined the staff in 1987, eight years after the store first opened in Adams Morgan. Mr. Troy took over in 1991, about the same time the shop moved to 14th Street - south of U Street Northwest, formerly a gritty section of town that is now home to bistros, expensive furniture stores and a nearby Whole Foods.

Though Mr. Troy has yet to close on a new location, he said he still hopes to “be able to jump right off” into whatever building he finds.

He said Ruff & Ready “was started for people either looking for something beat up that they could refurbish” or something ready to be put to use.

He visits auctions and estate sales around the District, Maryland and Virginia looking for pieces to fill the store.

Mr. Troy said the “Going Out of Business” sign that hangs above the door has worried some people, a reaction punctuated by a young man who stopped to ask if the news was true and responded with a resounding “yes” when told it is only a temporary hiatus.

But the closing also meant a sale, which brought out a steady stream of customers wending their way through the tight aisles lined with end tables, stacks of framed photographs, and all shapes and sizes of sculptures.

Manning the register was Northeast resident Albert McCray, a longtime colleague of Mr. Troy, who has a smile and kind word to say about every purchase he rings up.

“We take cards, we take cash, we take whatever we need to do to work with you,” Mr. McCray said, adding he’s seen such oddities as traffic stop lights for sale along with numerous lamps and tables, many of which have ended up at his own home.

As he held up a blue-and-red fringed shoulder bag to admire the look, its new owner, Anna Strand, beamed and said that she “loves it.”

Then she eagerly exchanged a handful of bills to cover the cost of the purse and a colorful rug for her Woodley Park apartment.

The store has always been a popular spot for Ms. Strand and others to browse on weekends.

She said she comes to Ruff & Ready once a month, to at least peruse the merchandise, because unlike popular chains, the store stocks things so that the purchase “is something only you have.”

“You have to look, but that’s part of the fun,” she said.

• Meredith Somers can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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