When it’s cold outside, retailers are lonely inside

From a furniture retailer’s perspective, the polar vortex gripping much of the Midwest this week can be summed up in two numbers: 21 and 0.

The first is the number of degrees below zero Norton Shore, Mich., felt like when a lusty wind chill whipped off Lake Michigan early Wednesday morning. The second is the number of Norton Shore customers who chose to brave the c-c-cold and show up at Blended Furniture Market the past two days.

HFA member RandiLynn Talsma stared out her store’s front windows at an empty parking lot and shrugged.

“It’s been a quiet 48 hours, but I’m not complaining,” says Talsma. “Even I wouldn’t go out shopping in this weather.”

For the second straight day usually hearty Midwesterners decided furniture shopping could wait – any shopping really. Schools and businesses remains closed in many cities and residents were warned to wear extra layers if they dared venture out.

About 290 miles north of Norton Shores, HFA member Kyle Everson of Everson’s Furniture in St. Ignace, Mich., finally made it to work Thursday around 2:30 in the afternoon. Eighteen inches of snow the night before tends to make you late for work.  Besides, Everson said, “Nobody’s going out in this stuff anyway.”

This time of year is slow for Everson’s. St. Ignace is a tourist town hard by the Lake Huron in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She and her husband, Jim, get through the winter on his upholstering business.

“It would be different if it were this dead in a few months, but we’re used to this,” Kyle said. Instead of serving customers, the Eversons are crunching numbers. “There’s always book keeping to do,” she said.

The Eversons and Talsma will be selling soon.  Forecasts call for a 70- to 80-degree swing in temperature throughout the Midwest to kick off the weekend.

“I can’t wait,” Kyle Everson said. “It’s getting a little lonely here.”

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