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Greyish, monochromatic industrial buildings greet us as we drive over train tracks to pass through a tall, chain-link fence.

Winding through this labyrinth of metal-encased structures, we stop the car to enter one of the buildings.

Inside, dark wooden beams stretch from floor to ceiling, reaching back to the far corners of the 2000 square foot space.

The building we are standing in is an old tobacco fumigation warehouse. Tobacco was the predominant industry in Durham in the 20th century, and this collection of buildings along the train tracks is a remnant of that industry.

But as America’s use of tobacco decreased, Durham’s industries – and the city itself – changed as well. For a while, many of the older spaces in Durham, like this warehouse, were vacant.

To preserve these spaces, the people of Durham have worked to repurpose and reuse them.

One example of this is Nugget, a company that uses the tobacco fumigation warehouse as the home-base for their product, the Nugget.

“Nugget is a 4-piece foam couch that can turn into anything a kid can imagine,” explains Ryan Cocca, the Creative Director at Nugget. “There’s all kinds of unused space in Durham that can be creatively reused. So decades later, it is a foam furniture warehouse, instead of tobacco.”

Ryan and his partner, David Baron, CEO of Nugget, chose to base their company in Durham when they started it four years ago because of the creative energy and business opportunity here.

“The community has already started to come together and come alive in downtown Durham,” says Ryan. David adds that the advantages of being based in North Carolina, a strong textile state, are perfect for their furniture business.

“We have communications and contact with a lot of the leading companies in our space here in Durham which is really cool, so you can see change happen right away in Durham,” says Ryan. “I feel like you can make an impact with what you’re doing.”

An impact that is helping to make playrooms, office spaces, and dorms a whole lot more comfy and fun. (Including our office, where the “Cozy Corner” is prime real estate!)


We want to remember what used to be, even as we reimagine what could be. Let us know in the comments!


David and Ryan give away one free Nugget per month! Sign up to start changing it up.

Anne Marie Hagerty

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