"I'll do anything not to get a real job"
Leslie Pritchard traipses about her Design District warehouse on Riverfront Boulevard, the new home of Again & Again, like a queen surveying her lands. In place of verdant fields and rolling hills, however, are rows upon rows of vintage furniture in all manner of shapes, sizes and conditions.
A freshly lacquered Ming dresser gleams next to a midcentury credenza that, while stylish, could use a little TLC. Scores of chairs — wingback, spoonback, Chippendale, slipper, tulip — huddled among an equally disparate variety of occasional tables and lamps await their chance at a new life. As Pritchard cheerfully navigates the surrounding chaos, you get the sense that she’s walked these concrete floors her entire life, yet the thrill has never worn off.
“Can you believe this was wasting away in someone’s attic?” she says emphatically, her arms outstretched in a pose reminiscent of Vanna White — with three times the enthusiasm. A quick glance at the object in question reveals a modest-looking sofa covered in a dowdy floral fabric. Grandma chic, if you will. After a second take, Pritchard points out the artful modern lines, disclosing that what looks like an afterthought is actually a mint condition Milo Baughman piece one upholstery job away from being the envy of any midcentury collector.
“It’s not easy to fill a warehouse with dirty furniture and convince people they should buy it,” Pritchard says. “But I’m just the girl for the job.”
“It’s not easy to fill a warehouse with dirty furniture and convince people they should buy it,” she says. “But I’m just the girl for the job.”
Pritchard discovered her passion back when “vintage” meant old — and usually dilapidated. At 14, she spied her first restoration project: an iron bed that had been her grandmother’s, rusted from years of neglect out in the family barn. Her mother tried to talk her out of using it, but needless to say the refinished bed remains in her parents’ house to this day.
“I found my first thrift store at 19 when I moved to Amarillo, and a love affair was born,” says Pritchard, who prides herself on having never bought a single piece of new furniture. (“Not even a lamp,” she says proudly.) In her early 30s and living in Dallas, she was out the door by 6 am every Saturday, without exception, to hit all the local estate sales. And after her two boys left the nest, in 2005, she funneled all that fervor and creativity into a little pink house on Bonita Avenue (now a hair salon), where she sold her pet projects under the name Again & Again.
Dallas embraced that little store, likely because the city had never seen anything like it. Pritchard’s old-can-be-new-again concept was a novel one, uncharted territory in a city known for its opulent homes filled with equally fancy furnishings. In need of more room to keep up with the growing demand, she expanded to Henderson Avenue about four years later, but even that space would eventually prove inadequate.
“We found that because we didn’t have as much square footage, people weren’t as willing to come to East Dallas to shop,” she says. The logical next step was the Design District, and if she was going to make the leap, she was going to do it right. Pritchard was set on a Riverfront flagship, but because nothing was available at the time she needed to move, she settled for a spot on nearby Howell Street in July 2011 and waited.
“I don’t pretend to be fancy,” Pritchard says. “I don’t pretend to be Jan Showers or some high-end designer. I’m just a girl that loves form. I believe in it.”
Fast-forward to the present day, and what seemed like a pipe dream or a neurotic hobby to some is now a blossoming enterprise. “It’s [been] such a wild ride, kinda like riding a rocket ship,” she says. “You have to hold on for dear life!” With two 12,000-plus-square-foot warehouses, a coveted 1st Dibs account and a solid-gold reputation to show for all of her hard work, it seems Leslie Pritchard is doing better than simply hanging on. One could argue that Again & Again’s latest incarnation is its best yet.
“The Design District, in addition to giving us more space to work with, has really opened us up to the [interior] designers — local designers and those traveling from New York and Florida,” she says. Indeed, the transition from best-kept secret to big kid in town comes with its fair share of changes.
While Pritchard still maintains the Howell Street location for consignment and overflow, Riverfront is her true pride and joy. When we met, she was putting the finishing touches on its front showroom, filled with beautifully restored pieces and designed specifically to help potential buyers make better use of their imaginations. Assisting with that mission are four bar-type setups, where knowledgeable Again & Again employees and Pritchard herself go one-on-one with customers to talk upholstery fabrics, lighting, custom throw pillows and, the crown jewel, custom furniture.
“If someone brings me a picture, I can build it,” she says. “We can custom fabricate anything — chairs, case goods, headboards — but, in particular, we focus on those styles you just can’t get a hold of, that one-of-a-kind accent piece you’ve dreamt about.”
As for her go-to sources for furniture and home décor, this should come as no surprise: “Estate sales, Salvation Army and the Genesis Benefit Thrift Store.”
The real fun begins a few steps beyond the shining displays and carefully curated vignettes, however — in the back room, which houses the true works of art, the “scrappy, soiled, dirty, used furniture … with great shape,” as Pritchard puts it. It’s in that room where she truly dazzles: intently listening as patrons describe, in great detail, the interiors of their homes and the just-right pieces that would complete them; walking around the store making suggestions, offering up personal advice and recounting past projects that might spur inspiration; and radiating the same vibrant energy from her interactions with the first customer to the very last.
“I don’t pretend to be fancy,” she says. “I don’t pretend to be Jan Showers or some high-end designer. I’m just a girl that loves form. I believe in it.”
Though her schedule is as jam-packed as her warehouses — talking to customers, looking at items to purchase, scrutinizing plans for custom builds, routing shipments, organizing the fabric bar, ticking things off a never-ending to-do list — Pritchard does find time to enjoy her favorite city. Admittedly a creature of habit, she frequents a short list of bars and restaurants, including Cedars Social, Parigi, Driftwood, Boulevardier, and Central 214. As for her go-to sources for furniture and home décor, this should come as no surprise: “Estate sales, Salvation Army and the Genesis Benefit Thrift Store.” You can take the owner out of the store, but you can’t take the store out of the owner.
It’s true that she’s never “off,” physically or mentally. I realized this when she gleefully recounted a story to me in which she was literally awakened in the night by the thought of a brass rams-head dining table. The funny thing is, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My dearest friends and some of the coolest people I’ve met have all walked through that door,” she says sincerely. “That’s the best part, getting to do more of what I love with more people. It’s an around-the-clock, labor-of-love endeavor, but I’ll do anything not to get a real job.”