Help Robert Grimmett Rebuild Robert Mason Co After Fire

For: Robert Grimmett
Organizer: Robert's Family, Friends & Framily
Help Robert Grimmett Rebuild Robert Mason Co After Fire (Robert Grimmett)
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The Story

Help keep the dream alive after a devestating Fire.

The Robert Mason story begins with someone who got inspired.

This “someone” happened to be a child. A bright, innovative child with a knack for business and a mind intent on always thinking bigger, better, and broader. And this particular child, one Robert Mason Grimmett, at the tender age of 13, decided that he would sell business services out of his parents’ basement in Ravenswood, West Virginia.

Though he was certainly imaginative, his efforts were not the stuff of child’s play; for young Robert made sure that he focused his budding business on price, customer service, quality, and his personal dedication to providing everything that his customers needed from start to finish.

Ever the bigger, better, and broader thinker, Robert decided to expand his store by selling office supplies, transforming his parents’ basement into a one-stop shop. Soon, at a mere 14 years of age, he received his very first business license from the city of Ravenswood.

Following these developments, Robert opened his first official retail store in downtown Ravenswood in June, 1995.

If this is starting to sound like a fairy tale, be certain that it’s not. Fairy tales are works of fiction, with protagonists whose successes are the results of magic. But in this story, Robert Mason Grimmett built his brand and his business through his own sheer hard work and dedication. There’s no magic to Robert’s success: there’s just an unparalleled commitment to excellent products and excellent service.

It is this very commitment that helped Robert’s—which soon became a cornerstone of the Ravenswood community—to continue to grow. Offering a full-service business center complete with design services, copy and print services, shipping services, and a full-line office, school, and art supply retail sales floor, Robert’s quickly became too small to carry everything that its core customer base desired.

Never one to shy away from dreaming big, Robert decided that it was time to move and expand his store yet again.

In the fall of 1996, construction began on the only retail space left in the high-traffic pedestrian mall known as Ravenswood Plaza. Robert’s soon joined the ranks of Fortune 500 companies such as Radio Shack, GNC, and Regis Salons to complete the mall. With help from investors, Robert was now able to feature a more uniquely tailored assortment of products, a new state-of-the-art copy center, a FedEx Ship Center, and a newly devised “Robert’s Home” department. With the addition of this department, Robert was able not only to strengthen and diversify his brand but also to create a store that became an even more essential asset to the Ravenswood community.

At the same time, Robert’s parents became an even more essential part of store. Upon the store’s opening, Robert’s mother took over merchandising responsibilities. Shortly thereafter, Robert’s father left a stable position as a Territory Sales Director so that he could manage store operations. To this day, they continue to work at the store, proving that RM isn’t simply a lifestyle brand or a wildly successful business: it is also a family business, in the best sense of the term.

Even with this success, Robert never stopped dreaming bigger, better, and broader. When he was 20, he sold the Ravenswood store to his parents and moved to Chicago to attend art school. Fulfilling this lifelong dream was not an end, however: it was a beginning. For while in Chicago, Robert learned everything he could about brands and the customer experience, working with such iconic brands as Limited Brands, Bath & Body Works, J. Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch, The Bombay Company, and even Pizzeria Uno. And with this knowledge and experience, Robert crafted a new vision for his brand. More than that, he crafted a new brand persona: one that was rooted in a sense and appreciation for vintage and nostalgia.

With the Ravenswood store now rechristened “Robert Mason,” Robert Mason Grimmett soon trekked all the way to Columbus, Ohio where he continued to build his business. What started as a 208 square-foot pop-up store in Sugardaddy’s on Gay Street has grown, like all of Robert’s ventures have.

And given the formidable history of this brand, it’s more than likely that Robert Mason will continue to grow too

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on May 13, 2014

Posted on May 13, 2014

Message from Robert's blog:

22 years ago, I had an idea, that became my dream, that became my hobby, which became a store and then became a brand. Robert Mason Co. is more then a store… it’s my life. Robert Mason is also my name creating even more emotional attachment. The stores themselves are my self-expression and are emporiums of what I consider to be the coolest fashion-forward office products on earth.

On Tuesday, April 15th, 2014, I lost one of my proudest creations. A fire destroyed the pop-up RM store that housed the laboratory for the Robert Mason brand and our Columbus retail & e-commerce operations.

My heart broke that night.

I am learning a new life lesson, which reinforces the old adage “what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.” Yes, things can be replaced. It took me time to understand, process and accept that the physical store at 11 E Gay Street was forever gone in 1 night. It’s surreal.

The community’s support through this difficult time has been overwhelming.

I realized that I was not the only person dealing with a loss. I have received hundreds of e-mails, texts, phone calls and messages with people very angry that they also lost “their place”. Just as a parent would be proud of their child for their accomplishments, I feel very humbled that Robert Mason held a special place in many hearts around Columbusland. Some comments go as far as asking “what am I supposed to do now?” I also felt that way in my shock period, but I now have a forward plan for Robert Mason and how we will endure this tragedy to emerge bigger, stronger and more awesome.

I have created this Q&A as my first blog post on the new so that you know why this store cannot reopen in it’s previous location and what my plans are for the company as we rebuild. I believe in true, authentic and open communication. This blog will enable me to brag about our latest designs, our newest products and for me to share with you what is going on with the brand. That’s what self-expression is all about right?

Thank you for being awesome.  


Q & A

1.What happened? Will you rebuild at 11 E Gay Street?

No. We will not rebuild the pop-up store. The store at 11 E Gay Street was destroyed. The building, a former bank, was built encased with a marble grandeur exterior. What the exterior doesn’t show is what truly happened inside which was nothing short of horror. Flames from the basement level spread through the floor and into our co-tenant, Sugardaddy’s. This required that the firemen cut the floors to fight the fire. Robert Mason was built on top of the banks original vault protecting RM from the fire in the floors, however firemen cut the walls at RM & Sugardaddy’s to gain access with a straight-line hose from the street after breaking the glass out of the RM doors that face Gay Street. This caused RM to become the chimney for the fire and took on smoke heated at nearly 600 degrees. Our warehouse and shipping in the basement had it far worse. Flames and hotter smoke combined with 8-10 inches of water, electrical foam plus a thick soot ravaged our space and destroyed everything.

2.Can you pop-up in another space?

Due to the nature of our business of fashion, seasonality, design and custom-built, the length of time for RM to build assortment required for another pop-up store would be equal to the time that it would take for us to build a full-line store.

I am committed to building a full-line store in another part of downtown that has not yet been announced. This was always the original plan, the timing is just off and will expedite our efforts.

3.What’s next for RM in Columbus during rebuilding time?

We have turned to our online store to keep our business running during the rebuilding period. Since the fire destroyed our shipping area and all inventory that the web & the pop-up store shared, we are diligently working to bring back the styles and product that you remember from the pop-up store. RM Online was pulled down that night and recently re-opened with an abbreviated collection. We have so many amazing people stepping up to help and have done the impossible to completely overhaul the former site while adding select styles in less then 2 weeks. Part of the reason we can make partial collections available is that product reorders and parts of our Spring Collection had not yet made it to the pop-up store before the fire. This product is our first step back into the online business. All of our vendors are working tirelessly to bring us back up in all categories.

Because the online store is our only presence in Columbus, I have planned for phases of updates that will bring more brands, more products and more features then we had before. Partner brands that weren’t able to come into our assortment until our larger store is built will now come online sooner for you to enjoy. Consider it an early expansion, virtually.

If you miss our faces… you can see us at the May Moonlight Market, where we will setup a logo shop in front of our former store so that you can own a piece of Robert Mason history whether it be a commemorative logo tee or inspire leather wrist-band and see some of the assortment. Pretty much, we just miss you and want to say hi.

4.Did you have insurance?

Yes. Insurance is a tricky thing. You never know when something like this is going to strike. Our policy review for 1 year of insurance coverage was planned for the week of April 20th, consequently the fire took place 5 days prior. For those of you that remember the pop-up the way it was originally built, it was vastly different. We had converted into more RM brand and higher-end goods and expanded all other categories. Unfortunately, we did not have enough coverage to cover the pop-up store as you remember it. Furthermore, the expense of the aftermath impacts the numbers even more. It’s a lesson learned.

5.How are customers taking it?

I love our customers. This is why I am a retailer. I miss them. They are my friends and neighbors and people I attend social functions with and people I get to see daily, weekly, some monthly or when they can make it in. When I see someone on the street or if I am just grabbing coffee, we play the game of who will start crying first. It means the world to me that this little store meant that much to the community. It’s that proud parent feeling. That inspires me to come back with such a great comeback, it will be off the charts. I will pay tribute to the store that was lost with the store that now has some pretty big shoes to fill. Weird when it was only 208 sq ft right?

6.I don’t see my favorite product online, will it come back?

Because the store was destroyed and our product lost, we are working in a fierce way to bring everything back. All RM brand, Robert Mason Signature brand and Luciano Robert Mason brand product will come back in the next several weeks as we re-build the collections. If you have a specific product in mind you can e-mail [email protected] to pre-order products that are in production or to find the ETA of their arrival.

7.What are the fundraising campaigns for RM?

Robert Mason Co. has never asked for funds to cover our business loss. Our customers have been so helpful and so supportive that crowd-funding sites have been established to help us get back on our feet. You can’t plan these things, and when your store (in this case both store and online) closes for even 1 day, cashflow starts to decrease in big numbers right away. I had no choice on the night of the fire but to let my staff go. These funds helped me bring them back, save their jobs and give me the much-needed help to get started on our immediate rebuilding. It’s humbling. I feel very loved in Columbus.

8.Is the West Virginia store taking over for the Columbus store?

The West Virginia store is my original concept. The only thing the 2 stores shared, was their name. I do not own the original store. When I made the decision to go to college, I sold WV to my parents who still own and operate under a brand licensing agreement. West Virginia does not sell the same merchandise, nor does it have our systems. The WV team is heartbroken for us and has been nothing but supportive, but they cannot take on any of the Columbus stores business operations as we operate independently.

Product will now ship out of our e-commerce offices setup on S Third Street in Downtown Columbus

9.Who is helping you rebuild?

Robert Mason customers.

The number of people who have reached out, called, texted, messaged, stopped by, are just too many to name individually.

Robert Mason staff.

I couldn’t be more proud of what we have accomplished just post-fire. I had a few days where I needed to deal with what happened, but the staff was there to keep me up and focused even through those really difficult days. They knew how critical it was for us to stay on track, just to stay in business.

My best friend from college, Torre Gentile started the community crowd-funding site to help RM;

PR expert, Michelle Chippas, alongside, Marketing Director Melissa Fast from Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District offered their services pro-bono to assist.

Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District has had their hand out to help us from the evening of the fire, and allowed for us to use their facilities through our severe lack of resources.

Offers of support, help, services and tangible items have come from all over Columbusland in support of our staff and their well-being, and to help to rescue the business.

I am forever grateful to everyone. We will get through this and be even better… because of YOU

Posted on April 21, 2014

Posted on April 21, 2014

Because of YOU...
We have re-hired the Columbus staff to help with the store dismantle and removal. They will also help with the RM rebuild/planning efforts for online store relaunch and a new physical store to call home. 

Big huge THANK YOU from all of us. ♥ 

Columbus Update : 4/21
We learned the extent of our product loss in the lower level warehouse and only made it through half of the removal due to the extremely poor conditions and thick soot covering everything. Tomorrow we will finish the warehouse and start to demo the store itself with the helping hands of our newly re-hired staff and Service Master.

Thank you to all who are helping and are thinking of us.

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