Not much is ordinary about Crowley Furniture & Mattress in the Kansas City, Mo., area. Certainly not its warehouse.
On a snowy day in February, Greg Crowley guided visitors through a security checkpoint into one of the world’s most distinctive business complexes. Called SubTropolis, it features a series of tunnels dug into the bluffs that rise above the Missouri River. Miles of paved roads lead to vast chambers carved out of ancient limestone deposits.
The entrance to one tunnel carries a Crowley sign. The road inside is smooth and well-lighted. It leads past a row of thick limestone pillars and several loading docks. Most have trucks backed into them. The visitors park in front of an office door.
The office workers, who schedule deliveries and handle customer service calls, joke about being cave-dwellers. There are no windows, of course, but they say they’ve heard reports about the snow from truck drivers. Another door opens to the warehouse space – 75,000 square feet of it. It doesn’t look like any warehouse you’ve seen before.
It’s clean, dry – and comfortable. The temperature stays around 70 degrees all year. It may be cold and wet outside, but in this inner sanctuary all is warm and dry. Crowley, who has leased the space since the early 2000s, incurs no heating or air-conditioning costs in here. He only uses fans to circulate the air.
Wide spaces are separated by more limestone pillars. The ceilings are 17 feet high, limiting Crowley’s ability to stack furniture, but that’s a drawback barely worth mentioning.
Crowley doesn’t want anyone to lose
SubTropolis was created by Hunt Midwest. The real-estate development firm was founded by Lamar Hunt, who also established the Kansas City Chiefs football team. On Super Sunday, Crowley Furniture won a Super Bowl “wager” with Hoot Judkins of Redwood City, Calif. With the Chiefs’ victory, Hoot Judkins donated $1,000 to a Crowley favorite charity, Charlie’s House in Kansas City. But Crowley Furniture made sure no one was a loser by giving $1,000 to Hoot Judkins’ charity, the Redwood City Police Athletic League.
Greg Crowley runs his business with an attitude that no one should lose. Customers can shop his three stores – in Liberty and Lee’s Summit, Mo., and Overland Park, Kan., – for the products they
want at good prices. They can finance purchases with zero interest, but if they pay up front, they can get a little off. He might charge a few dollars more than some of the big-box stores, but customers know they’ll get excellent service and keep their dollars in their own communities – especially because Crowley gives back so generously.
Crowley Furniture was established in 1954 by Greg’s parents, Charles and Marilyn Crowley. He took over in 1985, overseeing a growth surge – ironically – after Nebraska Furniture Mart opened a Kansas City superstore in the early 2000s. When his options were grow or die, he expanded from one store to three. All the while, Crowley Furniture has played a large role in its communities.
Crowley receives HFA’s Trailblazer Award
That’s a big reason why Crowley was chosen to receive the Home Furnishings Association’s Trailblazer Award for 2019. The trophy was presented in his Liberty store Feb. 12.
One of the local charities Crowley Furniture supports is Sleepyhead Beds, which distributes new and gently used—but sanitized – mattresses to children and families in need.
“Sleepyhead Beds is thrilled to hear Greg Crowley is receiving this award,” said Gayle Terry Holmes, its executive director. “Greg and Crowley Furniture provide safe and healthy sleep to hundreds of children in Kansas City by sharing new beds with us. We are beyond grateful for our partnership with Crowley Furniture and thank them for the many ways they serve our community.”
Holmes was one of many community friends who attended the presentation for Crowley on that wintry evening. Others included Brett and Jenny Horn, the founders of Charlie’s House. Charlie was their 2-year-old son who was killed in 2007 in a furniture tip-over accident. Since then, they have worked to educate other families about safety. Now they have built a children’s safety demonstration house in the Hospital Hill neighborhood of Kansas City. It will open this spring.
A real commitment to safety in the home
Crowley had nothing to do with Charlie’s tragic death, but he quickly formed an association with the Horns to help prevent similar accidents. In addition to supporting their project, he helps distribute tip-restraint kits throughout the area and makes sure his customers know how to anchor chests and dressers so children can’t pull them over.
Some furniture retailers might want to avoid talking about sensitive safety issues like tip-over accidents. Crowley’s warehouse might be underground, but he’s never buried his head to duck challenges. That’s why his HFA recognition was celebrated by customers and community partners alike.