Carrie Rengers

A quiet engineer met an extroverted designer and this downtown business is the result

Occidental Management is returning downtown

The real estate company will take the third floor of Union Station’s former icehouse building, a 1901 building the company is renovating at 155 S. Rock Island between Union Station and the new Cargill building. (April 15, 2019)
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The real estate company will take the third floor of Union Station’s former icehouse building, a 1901 building the company is renovating at 155 S. Rock Island between Union Station and the new Cargill building. (April 15, 2019)

What do you get when you cross a quiet engineer with an extroverted designer?

A new business near a growing area of downtown.

“I’m a strong believer in just booking the flight — just doing it,” says Rose Hansen, the designer.

She and her boyfriend, engineer Ernie Sharp, will debut the new home of House of Sharp at 520 N. Washington for Final Friday this week.

It’s a business that started as a hobby in their basement.

Sharp built a plasma table, a machine that cuts metal.

“He did it as a hobby project while going to WSU,” Hansen says.

“The fabrication world automatically drew him in,” she says. “Of course, he wasn’t satisfied with a 4-by-4-foot table.”

So she says he built a larger, “fancier” table in their garage and began selling what he was making.

“This has some real potential business opportunities,” Hansen says they realized.

Sharp had been using premade designs, but Hansen says she asked, “Well what if we come up with some original designs?”

She says they each fell into their natural roles, “And then before you know it, we just got too busy. I was working too much for it to be a part-time gig anymore.”

She quit her job as a marketing coordinator for a real estate investment firm last April, and Sharp quit his engineering job in January. Hansen says that’s when they created an LLC and turned “House of Sharp from a hobby to a full-fledged local business.”

“Some of it was just guts,” Hansen says. “Part of it was realizing how much attention this business got by doing zero marketing for it whatsoever.”

She says they would do a vendor show and sell out of every item. They’d post a creation on Craigslist and “have, like, 20 people fight over a single item.”

They hired their first employee in August and another, an office administrator, followed in December.

Hansen says the garage “was getting rather full,” and larger orders for things such as conference tables and big signs started coming in.

“You just can’t fit those in the garage.”

They wrote a business plan and signed a three-year lease.

Of the 4,000 square feet they now have, 1,000 square feet of it will be an office and a storefront.

In addition to their own items, such as signs, wall decor and other modern industrial pieces, Hansen says they’ll sell other items made locally. That includes pottery, jewelry, clay pieces and cutting boards. So far, they have 15 vendors.

Not only do Hansen and Sharp now have more space than they’ve ever had, the new site is convenient for them because they’ve already been hanging out in the Central and Washington area, Hansen says.

There’s the Yard, Lampton Welding Supply, Hall Steel & Fabrication and, of course, nearby Mort’s Martini and Cigar Bar.

“It’s a bunch of our favorite businesses that we go to pretty regularly.”

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