Downtown retailer Dixie Brewer swears she was only joking with her landlord, Tomás delToro-Diaz.
But an offhand remark she made a few weeks ago sparked an idea. And the idea grew into a plan. And the plan ignited a business deal that will certainly change Brewer's life and potentially the lives of many others.
The upshot is this: delToro-Diaz — along with his partner, Dr. Branden Dailey — has purchased a 29,000-square-foot retail space at 2819 F St., a space that once housed Beverly's Fabrics, and before that, Mayfair Market.
Now it is the future home of In Your Wildest Dreams.
"I wouldn't have bought it if Dixie hadn't agreed to move her business here," delToro-Diaz said.
"And I wouldn't have moved here if Tomás hadn't bought it," Brewer said, laughing.
Brewer, the owner of the consignment store In Your Wildest Dreams on 19th Street, had been getting lots of calls from antique vendors who had been doing business for years at the iconic Woolworth's building downtown. The announcement last month that the building was being sold to Moneywise meant that the antique vendors at Woolworth's Five and Dime Antique Mall would soon be out, and would have to find another place to do business.
"They started calling us and calling a few other people, but nobody has any room for them," Brewer said.
"Some of them had been there 20 years. They're not just vendors. That's how they make their living."
With that quandary in mind, Brewer remarked to delToro-Diaz that maybe she should buy a larger building so that some of the antique vendors at Woolworth’s would have a place to go when the building changes hands in November. A few days later, delToro-Diaz made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.
"A couple of days later he came back and said, 'I really like your idea. You find the building, I'll buy it for you.'
"Who does that?" she said.
But even then, Brewer wasn't immediately convinced. She's been successful downtown in her 8,300-square-foot building, which is also owned by delToro-Diaz.
"Basically, by the time we get done, we're going to be quadrupling in size," Brewer said. "We both thought about it, went back and looked at the building two or three times, and there really isn't a better building than that for us. And so he bought it for us."
When delToro-Diaz looked at the building, one of the things that convinced him was the construction.
"It has good bones," he said of the structure.
There's brick beneath all that white paint, he said, and it's not dented or scarred by decades of use.
In doing business in real estate, it shouldn't only be about profit, he said. Yes, success is important, but so is making positive impacts in the community. And bringing an adept businesswoman like Brewer to F Street could place another strong retail anchor in the area to join other strong business anchors in the area, such as Rosemary's Creamery, KC Steakhouse and others.
"I like to do projects that help or uplift the community," delToro-Diaz said.
As the two friends, who also happen to be landlord and tenant, gathered in the cavernous building last week, they talked about how the dream involves more than building another large consignment store filled with antiques, curiosities and unique gifts.
Brewer wants it to be a destination, a place where people can gather, relax, shop and maybe more.
"I didn't want to tell anybody until it was a sure thing," she said. "It's a sure thing.
"I'm probably going to be taking on 75 to 100 vendors," Brewer said. "They're not all coming out of the Five and Dime, but now that people have heard about it, there are vendors coming from everywhere."
Including a pinball and arcade dealer who has agreed to come aboard and place some machines around the store for retro, coin-operated fun.
Tammy Reynolds and her husband, Bill, have been at the Five and Dime for some eight years, and the income from sales at the location has been a significant part of their retirement nest egg.
"We were devastated when we learned that the Five and Dime was going to close," she said.
The last day for dealers there is Nov. 7, according to a letter they received from Mark and Linda Sheffield, soon-to-be former owners of the Woolworth's building.
"We were trying to figure out what we were going to do," Reynolds said. "Then we ran into Dixie at an estate sale. Dixie knows everything."
Eventually, Brewer invited the Reynoldses to join her at the new F Street store. Many others are also breathing a sigh of relief after joining in with Brewer's entrepreneurial effort.
"Dixie pretty much saved the day for about 65 people," Reynolds said.
Even Cathy Flores, the manager at the Five and Dime, is following Brewer to F Street, Reynolds said.
And Reynolds' customers are "all in" as well.
"I can't even talk about it without getting tears in my eyes," she said. "Had Dixie not done this, we really would not have any place to go."