Retirement waits until furniture store sells

Picture shows Margie and Mike Smith in their furniture store

At Willits Furniture Center, everything is for sale. Really. Everything.

The 51-year-old business and the building it occupies on Central Avenue in Willits, Calif., are on the market. Mike and Margie Smith would like you to make them an offer. For the business alone. For the building alone. Or for both.

“We would do whatever worked,” Margie said.

They are ready to begin a less-busy life. But they’re also patient. “This is our retirement,” Margie said of the anticipated proceeds of selling the business, a member of the Home Furnishings Association, that Mike took over from his father in 1976. So it’s important to get out of the business what they’ve put into it.

Their plans have been the talk of the town for some time – so much so that Mike addressed them recently in a letter to the local paper, the Willits News.

“Customers and friends,” he wrote, “for some time now we have heard questions and rumors regarding the future of Willits Furniture Center. There have been questions about whether or not the business will continue (or that it has gone out of business), and whether or not we are switching locations since the building is for sale.

“We have no plans to end the company or vacate the building at this time, but you are correct in thinking that we do have the building and the business on the market to be sold.

Willits Furniture Center sales are trending up

“Currently, we’re looking for interested parties. Margie and I would like to retire sometime in the next few years, and selling the location and business are big parts of making that plan work. Until we find the right buyer, we are doing business as usual.”

Business, as usual, has been good lately, Margie Smith said. Willits is a town of about 5,000 people 150 miles north of San Francisco. It lost some traffic, literally, when a U.S. 101 bypass opened, and wildfires in the area have caused plenty of problems. But the store, known for a good product selection, fair prices and excellent service, draws customers from a wide area. So, sales are increasing.

Mike and Margie have worked hard to achieve that. They lost their long-time store manager about a year ago and have been running the business themselves since then. A daughter who lives in Roseville, 165 miles to the southeast, isn’t interested in moving.

“The last year now, we’ve been pretty grounded,” Margie said. “But the business is much healthier.”

Willits is an attractive environment

So is the town. Some new shops and restaurants have opened downtown recently. Willits sits at about 1,400 feet in elevation and is known as “The Gateway to the Redwoods.” It’s a nice place. It should be attractive to anyone who wants to own a profitable furniture store.

“Maybe someone from the Bay Area will want to get out of the rat race,” Margie said. “It would be nice. Truly, for the community, we’d like it to continue.”

The Smiths, however, also would like to enjoy their retirement. What are their plans? Maybe some travel. But:

“That depends on how old we are when he retires,” she said of her husband, who’s 69 now.

And that depends on when they find the right buyer.

[Mor Furniture sold to Chinese conglomerate]

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