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Photo of Badcock Store

Six months after hurricane, Badcock store opens in Florida

Photo: HFA member Sonja Rhinehardt outside her temporary Badcock store in Pensacola, Fla.

The morning after Hurricane Michael flooded and flattened Panama City and much of the surrounding Florida Panhandle, Home Furnishings Association member Sonja Rhinehardt ventured out to check on her two Badcock Home Furniture & more stores.

“It broke my heart,” she said, when she learned that both stores were destroyed. “I knew the hurricane was going to be tough to rebound from for the community, but seeing my stores is when I realized things were going to be tough on me personally.”

Six months later, Rhinehardt is amazed how far Panama City has come. There’s still much to do. Many  residents are living in damaged homes or trailers unfit for human habitation. Some are live in tents.

But just as many have rebuilt their homes and were looking for furniture and appliances when Rhinehardt opened a temporary Badcock store in Panama City this spring.

The store’s opening was celebrated April 6 and guests were given $50 Badcock merchandise cards. Crowds of local residents showed up before the store opened to replace furniture and appliances lost in the Category 4 storm.

“There were times I felt defeated, but I never gave up,” said Reinhardt. “We had a great staff that wouldn’t let me give up. I cried a lot , but kept going forward and, of course, Badcock was a great paertner through all of it.”

Actually, the store in Panama City is the second Badcock “store” to open. Within days of the hurricane hitting the coast, the Badcock Retail Operations team began helping Rhinehardt formulate a plan to get a temporary location up and running. The team got the first temporary location up and running within three weeks after the storm.

That temporary location consisted of storage sheds set up in the parking lot of one of Rinehardt’s old stores. 

Rhinehardt ran her business out of those sheds for more than five months until a space was secured this spring on West 23rd Street in Panama City.

Badcock CEO and President Rob Burnette said Rhinehardt’s determination to stay open and serve her community is admirable. “I’m inspired by dealers like Sonja and by our operations staff who have such a commitment to our customers, our community and our brand,” said Burnette, who was named the HFA’s Retailer of the Year in 2018. “We hope that our actions help inspire healing and rapid rebuilding in Panama City and the adjacent towns.”

Reinhardt was said she doesn’t know how long her temporary store will stay open. “We’re swamped with other things,” she said. “Every day we’re busy. People are so glad to see we’re open and helping them get what they need.”

Robert Bell is Content Editor for the Home Furnishings Association. Email or call him with news from your store, including expansion, personnel, successful initiatives—anything of interest to HFA members. He can be reached at rbell@myhfa.org or 916-757-1169.

Photo of Walker Furniture Truck

HFA member Walker Furniture helps firefighters with a good night’s sleep

Two years ago, Home Furnishings Association member Walker Furniture pledged to replace the mattresses at all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley as part of an ongoing event called “Project Firehouse: Rested & Ready.”

On June 12, employees from Walker Furniture delivered six new mattresses, foundations and protectors to a firehouse on East Desert Inn Road near the city’s famous neon strip.

Linda Alterwitz-Mizrahi, co-owner of Walker Furniture, makes it a point of attending every delivery to the county’s firehouses — no matter how small or far away the station is.

Their home away from home

“Every delivery is special,” said Alterwitz-Mizrahi. “It’s hard to imagine how much the firefighters appreciate having new mattresses considering the fire station serves as their home away from home; however, their excitement is apparent as they line up to help unload the Walker truck.”

If you’re keeping score, the latest delivery will make 62 new mattresses delivered to eight Clark County Fire Department stations. That’s an impressive number, but Walker has a long way to go. By the end of the event, Walker Furniture will supply all 30 firehouses with new mattresses.

“Watching the old mattresses being taken away tells a story of how long it’s been for our first responders to enjoy a good mattress,” said Alterwitz-Mizrahi. “I’m glad we’re able to help.”

Read the Shop Talk blog here.

Truck next to Alaska state sign

Alaska retailer goes to great lengths to save on freight

Five years ago, Home Furnishings Association member Donny Dean could see the writing on the wall. His home electronics store was getting hammered by e-commerce sites, so he pulled the plug and started selling furniture. Image Home Furnishings of Wasilla, Alaska, was born.

In 2017, he saw a different writing on the wall. Two bigger furniture chain stores in Wasilla that sold on volume were killing him on price. Instead of getting out of the furniture business, Dean found another solution.

He bought a truck. A pretty big one, too.

And that, says Dean, made all the difference. These days, Image Home Furnishings isn’t just surviving against its bigger, leaner competitors, it’s thriving.

A year ago, Dean started an advertising campaign centered on no freight charges. Customers have come to expect free shipping on items in the continental United States, but Alaska and Hawaii are different. Even Amazon won’t offer free shipping to Wasilla, a logging and agricultural city about 30 miles east of Anchorage.

Dean was paying about $18,000 a month for a single truckload of furniture from England Furniture in Tennessee. Last year, Dean and his fiancé, Beth Halligan, enrolled in a three-day truck-driving class in Arizona and earned their commercial driver’s licenses. Then they bought a new 2018 Freightliner Cascadia truck along with a 53-foot trailer.

Learning on the road

To say Dean was a novice truck driver is an understatement. “We didn’t know anything beyond how to drive the truck,” he says. “When we bought the trailer, they had to show us how to hook it up. We didn’t know how to park at a rest stop. It was a huge learning curve.”

Dean and Halligan learned on the road. They spent about 150 days traveling between Wasilla and New Tazewell, Tenn., where England’s plant is located. Before you rush off to Google, we’ll do the math for you: That’s 4,052 miles each way.

But the number Dean is most obsessed with is the $14,000 he estimates he saves with each shipment. Since Dean introduced his “no freight charges” program more than a year ago, sales at Image Home Furnishings are up 25 percent. “We’re just moving furniture every day,” he says. “I wish I’d thought of this a lot sooner.”

Dean has a strong core of workers to run the store while he’s away, but the question remains: Does he ever get tired of life on the road? “Are you kidding?” he asks, not waiting for an answer. “I spent my entire life behind a desk in retail. I’m having a blast!”

1,000+ miles a day

Because Dean shares the driving with Halligan, the couple can avoid the federal government’s strict hours-of-service regulations. With two drivers sharing the work, Dean says they only need to take 30-minute breaks every eight hours. It takes the couple four days to drive from Wasilla to Tennessee.

The savings are passed on to customers. Dean says an England sofa that he once sold for $1,450 now sells for about $800. He says his competition, Bailey’s Furniture and Furniture Enterprises of Alaska, which rely heavily on outside freight carriers, are finding it difficult to compete. “They can’t go much lower than what they already have in them because they sell on volume. The margins won’t allow them to come down much more.”

He says bigger furniture stores are starting to take control of their own shipping like fellow HFA members Jordan’s, American Furniture Warehouse and Jerome’s. “I really think it’s the future of the industry,” says Dean. “More and more stores are wanting more control of their orders and getting them in a timely way and being able to control costs.”

Customers welcome them home

Dean says furniture stores are no strangers to sales and promotions. What makes his story unique is that he is transparent in passing on the savings. “People want to believe they’re getting a deal, and our narrative, the way we tell it, shows them what they’re getting,” he says.

The couple will leverage social media on a road trip, chronicling their journey and letting residents in and around Wasilla know when they’ll be back in town with a new shipment.

“When we’re back in town you absolutely see a pickup in traffic and business,” he says. “It’s like people are waiting for us to get back.”  

Read the Shop Talk blog at https://myhfa.org/category/shop-talk/ .

Kurlancheek finds a new home

Photo: Ronne Kurlancheek and her dog Dolly in her new store.

The day after a powerful tornado destroyed her business in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., last June 13, Ronne Kurlancheek’s employees gave her a pair of ruby slippers and a stuffed Toto in a basket.

“They will be on the counter in my new store when I open,” Kurlancheek said last week with satisfaction in her voice.

Her experience since the tornado has been like a year in Oz, the owner of Home Furnishings Association member Kurlancheek Home Furnishings acknowledged. Through it all, she was grateful.

“As long as no one got hurt, it was going to be OK,” she said.

Hers was one of about two dozen businesses flattened by the tornado, which ripped through a small section of the eastern Pennsylvania city at 10:30 on a Wednesday night. The businesses were all closed, and no one was around. But most were a total loss. “We were like ground zero,” she said.

Kurlancheek quickly found an empty warehouse with a loading dock, office space and about 1,000 square feet for a temporary showroom. Despite losing all her inventory, she was able to fill and deliver orders she’d taken before the tornado hit. Over the following months, customers continued to find her, although she could accommodate them by appointment only. “We sold something all year – but not much!” she said.

A day to celebrate

Now, she’s ready to celebrate a new day for her 114-year-old business – opening a permanent home in a repurposed automobile factory built in 1920. The old industrial building has been divided into all sorts of small businesses, Kurlancheek said – a floral shop, delicatessen, hair stylist, fitness center and more. Her store has 6,000 square feet, plenty to display her special chandeliers, artwork and home furnishings. She also takes special orders.

“The area has a funky atmosphere,” she said. “The potential for foot traffic is good.”

Her grand opening is set for Thursday – the anniversary of the tornado. The local newspaper published a feature story, and the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce is holding a ribbon-cutting, signifying the importance of the event marking the new start for one of the area’s oldest businesses.

“The Chamber really likes us,” Kurlancheek said. “We’re like the little engine that could.”

She’s sending thousands of invitations to a party that will stretch over several days and offering a drawing for a $500 gift certificate.

“We could have maybe 500 people here next weekend,” she said. “That’s scary.”

Not really. Not after what she and her employees went through a year ago.

She feels a little like Dorothy. There’s no place like home.

Doug Clark is content manager and government relations liaison for the Home Furnishings Association. Contact him at 916-757-1167 or dclark@myhfa.org.

Art Van to help St. Louis-area flooding victims

As the St. Louis area prepares for what may be historic flooding from the Mississippi River this week, one Home Furnishings Association member is preparing to help residents recover.

Art Van Furniture is stepping up to help residents in St. Louis and neighboring communities who have already seen or are about to experience devastating damage from flooding. The company is extending its best pricing, the company’s employee family purchase pricing, to victims who incur damage. Support for the special pricing comes from the Art Van Furniture and Mattress Emergency Flooding Relief Program.  

Guests at Art Van Furniture’s showrooms in Fairview, Ill., and in O’Fallon, Affton, Richmond and Bridgeton, Mo., impacted by storms and floods can bring in photos of their damaged furniture and mattresses – or an insurance claim – to receive 40 percent off new furniture and mattresses. The one-time purchase offer requires store or sales manager approval and expires on Nov. 29.

Near record flooding

The Mississippi River is projected to soar to a crest of 46 feet in downtown St. Louis — 16 feet above flood stage — later this week, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

At that height, the river would surpass all but one flood in the city’s history, trailing only the Great Flood of 1993 by about 3½ feet.

“We want to do all we can to assist families in and around St. Louis whose homes and furnishings have been damaged by flooding,” said Ron Boire, president and CEO of Art Van Furniture. “Art Van is committed to helping our guests repair and refurbish their homes.”

Helping in Michigan, too

It was a similar story in Michigan last month. When the waters of Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River spilled their banks, residents of metro Detroit had their lives turned upside down trying to clean up from the severe flooding. Today, 400 of those flood victims are sleeping easier, thanks to Art Van Furniture and Temper Sealy International.

The Midwest’s largest furniture and mattress retailer joined with the world’s largest bedding provider, donating $300,000 in new queen and twin mattresses to Dearborn Heights and metro Detroit residents hardest hit by the flooding in May.

“Art Van cares and always stands ready to help families in need,” Boire said. “Our commitment to our communities runs deep. When we saw homes and belongings being destroyed, we immediately joined forces with Tempur Sealy to be part of the solution.”

Four 53-foot Art Van Furniture semi-trucks, each filled with new Tempur Sealy mattresses, arrived at a community center in Dearborn Heights and at a church in Detroit Saturday morning. Art Van Furniture volunteers helped unload and distribute the mattresses to flood victims.   

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