LaDiff-anchored Watkins-Cottrell buildings hit market for $10.5M

LaDiff’s home spans 1.3 acres in Shockoe Slip. (Courtesy of One South Commercial)

With its owners mulling retirement, a prime piece of Shockoe Slip that’s home to a longtime furniture retailer has hit the market.

The four buildings anchored by LaDiff at 117-125 S. 14th St. were listed for sale this month with an asking price of $10.5 million.

The assemblage includes LaDiff’s 47,000-square-foot showroom along with an adjacent office building and a pair of warehouses, all of which are near the intersection of South 14th and Dock streets. In total, the property spans 112,000 square feet and sits on 1.3 acres. The parcel was most recently assessed by the city at $6.24 million.

The buildings are owned by married couple and LaDiff co-owners Andy Thornton and Sarah Paxton, who founded the furniture and interior design shop in Charlottesville in 1980 before moving it to Richmond’s Tobacco Row in the early 1990s.

In 1998 the duo, along with Ivor Massey Jr., purchased the former Watkins-Cottrell hardware complex for $1.3 million and renovated it to be LaDiff’s home. Thornton and Paxton bought Massey out of the business in 2017, though Massey retained a minority share of the real estate.

Thornton said the 2017 deal with Massey included a clause to eventually list the building for sale.

“LaDiff is definitely not closing at this point,” Thornton said. “We have multitudinous options at this point.”

One South Commercial’s Tom Rosman and Lory Markham have the listing.

Thornton said they’re going to be picky about prospective buyers, and that they may not look far to find one.

“Honestly, Sarah and I may possibly be the people that end up buying the building. The agreement (with Massey) was to put it on the market and see what it would bear,” he said.

Thornton and Paxton are approaching retirement age and Thornton said they’re not exactly sure how they’d like to send off the business.

“There’s a point where we’re going to retire gracefully,” Thornton said. “We’ve devoted a huge amount of energy into making LaDiff as best as we can make it. We’re not saying we wouldn’t sell (the business), but it’s absolutely not our first intention.”

Should it be put up for sale, LaDiff’s business might draw as much interest as its real estate. Thornton said over the years their clientele has grown to reach well beyond Central Virginia, and that 2020 was LaDiff’s best year in business.

“In 41 years we’ve had many ups and downs, as has the economy. We’ve been through at least three recessions,” Thornton said. “But the last year, through no doing of our own, was an absolute windfall because anything to do with the home has been highly advantageous.”

Massey said he’s also easing into retirement, while working part-time at Brown Advisory, a wealth management firm that keeps its local office in the Watkins-Cottrell building at 11 S. 14th St. Among the assets managed by the firm are those of Massey’s family, which made its fortune from its namesake coal company and other businesses over the years.

Massey said he thinks the property ownership group has picked the right time to list it.

“Looking at the current real estate market and low interest rates, and we think taxes are going up … it’s a good time (to test the market),” he said.

BizSense editor Michael Schwartz contributed to this story.

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