Postcard from Millmont: A new pad for Peace Frogs brings people together

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Contractor Steve Callahan built Peace Frogs' "core," which contains storage closets and shelves for everyday necessities, plus loft storage above. Photo: Andrea Hubbell Contractor Steve Callahan built Peace Frogs' "core," which contains storage closets and shelves for everyday necessities, plus loft storage above. Photo: Andrea Hubbell

Having been in the business of selling vacations for 19 years, Julie Arbelaez was ready for a getaway from her workspace. “I felt like a change of scenery,” she said. The challenge was symbolized by the slash in her business name: Peace Frogs Travel/Outfitters. The company is a hybrid, both travel agency and retail store.

“They were always considered separate,” she said. Peace Frogs’ longtime home in Barracks Road Shopping Center “wasn’t conducive to collaboration. I wanted to merge the two and have more of a team identity.”

She found a new spot in the Millmont Shops and enlisted Wolf Ackerman to create a design that would accommodate staff meetings, travel planning sessions, and browsing customers—bestowing both privacy and openness as needed. “A traditional arrangement of studs and drywall would not have worked,” said Dave Ackerman. “It would not have been open enough, and it would have been too expensive.”

Instead, the firm marked the outer walls for retail display and designed a core to occupy the center of the store, housing desks for four full-time staff, storage, and retail counters. This core shifts as it runs down the narrow space. “The most open, public part is at the front, and the dense, private part is at the back,” said Ackerman. “It’s a gradient, not a hard edge.”

As though it were a solid box that had had pieces selectively removed (creating desks, cubbies, and mini-hallways), the core is a lively zone that suggests exploration and surprise. Openings echo each other in different planes, and Arbelaez and her staff are able to connect through and around the structure. “I love it—being able to see through the other side and communicate with clients in different parts of the store,” she said.

A bold color choice—Benjamin Moore’s Grape Green—gives the entire store an up-to-the-minute look. “I wanted something a little bit shocking,” said Arbelaez, “like customers were coming into a space that felt more adventurous.”

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