In the spring of 2011 I was a very low level manager at the local BigLots. There were a lot of changes going on in that store; people moving out, new people coming in, and an Assistant Manager spot opened. I’d worked there near 3 years, mostly the afternoon/closing shift staying at times until 2am to set the next day’s holiday sale ads! I was dedicated and hardworking, and had been told several times I would be moving up when a spot was available. Well, after applying for the Assistant Manager position I come to find out I wasn’t going to be interviewed or even considered. At all. So, I quit. Soon after, while searching the newspaper classifieds I came across an ad for a storage unit auction. Yah, those ones you see on Storage Wars. I had $500 saved and thought ‘why not?’ I had no real idea of what I’d do if I won one, but was thrilled at the idea and my other half didn’t have any objections.
My other half was working on a remodel flip in a better part of town and asked the homeowner if it was ok for me to do a garage sale there. I got permission, had the sale, and made enough for the first month’s rent and deposit for a little 1,500 square foot shop, with plenty of inventory left over. I sold my most cherished possession: a first edition, first printing of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand for $750 to supplement the opening inventory with another storage unit. I worked day and night for two weeks setting up folding tables and pricing items and opened for business in August.
It wasn’t more than 3 months before the store outgrew that little shop. I found out the landlord had another space just up the street, and at 2,500 square feet we moved in at the end of October 2011. The store ran fairly smoothly, buying up more storage units and doing parking lot sales to move out the excess merchandise. But I was barely able to pay the rent. You see, people love to come and look at all your collectibles and antiques, but they rarely sell. And the little 50 cent knick-knacks just sit around gathering dust. What sold best was furniture. I went to auctions, gathered consignments, and everything else I could think of and discovered that it’s hard (and almost impossible) to find used furniture that’s in good condition, and I definitely wasn’t going to be paying the rent with $1 dinner plates and 25 cent silverware.
So, as a sort of last-ditch effort I set up a meeting with an import furniture sales rep, spent my last $1300 placing my first order, donated the used furniture and housewares that were left and was suddenly in the new furniture business! I put every dime I made back into the store. The inventory slowly grew each week as customers bought and ordered their new sofas and bedroom sets. I found a mattress company and added small pieces of décor, and even a started carrying a second furniture line!
By 2014 the store was bursting at the seams. 2,500 square feet for a furniture store is definitely not enough space! I couldn’t show everything I wanted to, the store was losing sales because I just didn’t have enough space. So, in March 2014 I signed a lease for a 9,000-square foot location in The Shoppes at Exit 24 in Phoenix. This store was going to be different. I wanted nicer furniture, new styles, artwork, and décor. Searching through catalogs I began to notice those nicer styles of imported sofas and sectionals cost the same as their American made counterparts! I thought if someone is going to pay $900 or more for a sofa, why wouldn’t they buy American made where they can pick their fabrics and colors and pillows?? Something that was good quality with a good warranty that will last for years? That’s when I knew the direction the store would be headed.
Our American made selection started off rather small, beginning with a couple of sofa sets from Robert Michael. Any money made was put right back into new styles for the showroom. This slowly grew our American made inventory and allowed us to display new colors and ideas. New brands were added: Omnia Leather, Southern Motion, Jonathan Louis to name a few and customers really responded to the new styles and vibrant colors we were carrying.
In spring of 2016, due to conflicting property management issues, my head was turned when I found out that an incredible building in Medford had come available for lease. It was the former Larson’s Furniture building- a true landmark! It’s a two-piece property that spans 10th street with a pedestrian walk, and had been in business for 69 years. I ended up choosing the 3-store furniture gallery side, with its vignette rooms and open beam ceiling. I fell in love with the intimate feeling and history (it had been the Monarch seed warehouse in the early 1900s).
Now with 25,000-square feet to highlight our American lines and a 10-year lease I feel we’ve finally found our permanent home. There’s still work to be done- adding more lights and minor maintenance as we continue to build our selection of premium American-made furniture. When I look at back at what's been accomplished, what's been built, I can't help but feel very blessed, and very lucky that I've had such success. I can’t wait to see what these next years holds for us as we continue to grow~