The Hardlines Design Company Story Part 1 – Our Beginnings

(by Charissa Durst, originally published October 20, 2011)

Everyone knows that garages are the birthplace of many a great company, and although Hardlines didn’t actually start in a garage, you could say a garage is what started it all! The company was founded by Don Durst and me (then Charissa Wang), who met as undergraduates at the University of Maryland School of Architecture in 1984. We both subsequently attended graduate school at The Ohio State University (OSU), and during spring break of 1990, our final year, Don rented an office over a hobby shop in Akron so he could prepare his thesis project in a private place away from his family. The owner of the building also owned an auto repair shop, and when he learned that Don was an architecture student, he asked Don if he could design a three-car garage for him to store cars. Don brought the project back to Columbus and asked me to help him with it. The date was April 28, 1990, and that became the official foundation date for the firm. The project expanded to include a three-bedroom living unit above the garage, with the hobby shop (owned by the wife) in the front, and construction occurred later that year. Our partnership was born—we just designed the garage instead of working in it!

When Don and I graduated from OSU in December 1990, we fully intended to do what most other graduates do: find a job and intern under other architects. Unfortunately for us, Operation Desert Storm was underway, and the country was in a recession. All of the firms we sent resumes to indicated we should try back later in the year. So, our careers took a brief detour–Don’s first job with a graduate degree was to work third shift at a parking garage, and mine was as a hostess in a Chinese restaurant!

In the summer of 1991, Don and I obtained summer jobs with the National Park Service (NPS) to prepare HABS/HAER* drawings at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base since we had some previous experience doing this work as undergraduates. After the summer work was completed, we persuaded the NPS to contract with our company to finish the project. As this project was winding down in the spring of 1992, the NPS recommended us to a client in Madison, Indiana, to finish HAER documentation of the Schroeder Saddle Tree Factory. We completed this work in the fall and decided to set up a permanent office in Columbus. And so the story of Hardlines begins…





*Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record

Stay tuned for next week: Why “Hardlines”?