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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 916-757-1169.