Locating off beaten path can be advantageous


Sometimes an offbeat location can be the secret ingredient for business success.

"Despite the shortcomings of our facility -- it's old, small, run-down and crowded -- people are delighted we are here," said Paul Novograd, owner of Claremont Riding Academy, which is next to a vacant lot in a less-than-tony Manhattan neighborhood.

Beginning at 6 a.m, urban horse lovers arrive by bus, subway, car and taxi, or on foot, to visit their horses, take riding lessons or explore six miles of bridle paths in nearby Central Park. The 99-year-old brick carriage house is home to about 100 horses that are trained to be calm on bustling city streets.

Claremont, on the list of National Historic Sites, is about to undergo a $3-million renovation scheduled to be completed in time for its 100th birthday next year, Novograd said. "Claremont is so accessible, people come here despite the physical limitations," said Novograd, whose family has owned the stable for 60 years.

In fact, the popularity of the Upper West Side stable has prompted Novograd and a group of private investors to plan another urban riding center adjacent to Boston's Franklin Park.

"When you are accessible by subway and the only riding stable in town, you have a de facto monopoly," said Novograd, who also owns the rural Overpeck Riding Center in Leonia, N.J.

Creative entrepreneurs around the country are finding that putting their businesses in unexpected locations and encouraging customers to seek them out is not such a bad thing. Many downtown businesses are flourishing in areas that once were used only for warehouse space. There are restaurants tucked into warehouses in Houston and architects busy in lofts in downtown Los Angeles.

"When you choose an unusual location for your business, it adds some character and makes a statement that you are not the average firm," said Michael Geller, executive vice president of First Property Realty Corp. in Westwood, Calif. Geller said many advertising agencies and restaurants seek more affordable, offbeat locations, drawing customers to neighborhoods that they might not usually frequent. Other kinds of client-driven businesses seek unusual locations to save money and set themselves apart.

"When the clients arrive here, they are awe-struck," said Patricia Ridgway, founder of Ridgway Associates, a space planning and design firm in downtown Los Angeles. "They are so used to corporate, high-rise space, that they come into this Soho-type district and say, 'Wow, this is really creative; this is really great!' "

Ridgway and her 25 employees work in what was once a contemporary art museum above a busy restaurant at 414 Boyd St., east of Little Tokyo. In recent years, the area has become a haven for architects, designers and artists seeking unique studio space.

Sullivan Bluth Studios, a Ridgway client, searched for two months to find a distinctive building to consolidate its headquarters operations, art gallery, and animation and production studios.

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