GREENWICH, Conn. -- As she waited for the doors to open at the former Greenwich Post Office, Susan McHale wondered if the interior would deliver now that is home to the upscale home furnishing chain Restoration Hardware.
"It's exciting, I like it," she said at first glance, adding with a laugh that she didn't see any remnants of the former post office in the interior.
Restoration Hardware officially opened at 11 a.m. Friday with speeches and a ribbon cutting to welcome the business to one of the town's most important architectural landmarks.
Once inside, McHale was struck by how the renovation also incorporated the 50-foot obelisk monument to First World War veterans that stands in a little park in front of the building.
Greenwich resident Peter Malkin - principal owner of the Empire State Building - bought the building in 2011 from the asset-rich but cash-poor U.S. Postal Service for $15 million.
First Selectman Peter Tesei praised Malkin and his wife Isabel for their foresight in buying the property.
"It was through their vision that they helped save the signature U.S. Post Office here in central Greenwich. If there was anything that anchored our downtown it was this wonderful edifice that has served the community for many decades," Tesei said.
"Their insight and wisdom to purchase it, to find the appropriate tenant exceeded all expectations as all have you have been inside can attest. This is a wonderful restoration capturing the essence of what the building is about but bringing it forward to the 21st century with a retailer that has the finest in merchandise."
Restoration Hardware had been located at 239 Greenwich Ave., about a block from its new home. But CEO Gary Friedman said he was entranced by the building even before he knew it was for sale.
The 1917 Beaux Arts-style building has been a centerpiece for the town since the First World War. Malkin spoke of the significance of the site and praised Friedman for placing his business in the site.
"This is the most exciting adaptive reuse of a landmark post office," Malkin said. "This is very special in this historic center of the town of Greenwich with the Havemeyer Building given in 1903 by Henry Havemeyer, with the Bruce now the the Senior Center given by Mr. Bruce and now we have this wonderful place given by Gary."
Friedman said he was struck by the beauty of the building during a visit to Greenwich a few years ago. When he learned it was for sale, he swung into action and teamed with Malkin. He said his only concern was that Malkin be successful in the bid.
"My direction was: Don't lose that bid. Really only once in a lifetime does a building of this stature come up," he said before the official opening.
Included in the renovation was a rooftop terrace that was filled with furniture Friday as well as a side entrance from the first floor that leads out onto Greenwich Avenue.
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