American Furniture Warehouse adding competition to GJ market
When American Furniture Warehouse opened a store in Grand Junction in 1984, it was in the midst of the oil shale bust. Home prices collapsed. Unemployed residents moved out of the area. The store lasted a year before succumbing.
As the Englewood-based furniture retailer re-enters the Grand Valley nearly 30 years later, the soft real estate market and near double-digit unemployment rate are two primary indicators that the local economy continues to fight to emerge from the recession. But company officials point to an expanding western Colorado customer base and future community growth as reasons why they returned — and intend to stick around much longer this time.
“With so much growth within the company, we’re doing so many deliveries in the mountains and on the Western Slope,” American Furniture Warehouse spokesman Mark Quinnell said. “Grand Junction and kind of the Western Slope area (are) looking to have a very big population growth potential within the next 10 to 15 years.”
American Furniture Warehouse’s 150 or so employees aren’t the only ones anticipating the Nov. 5 grand opening at 2570 American Way, which is off U.S. Highway 6&50 next to Gold’s Gym. Grand Junction furniture store owners say while they may initially lose some customers to American Furniture Warehouse and its 150,000-square-foot store, they believe they ultimately will benefit from an influx of furniture shoppers.
“He’s going to be a force, there’s no doubt about it,” said La Z Boy Furniture Galleries President Mike Bennett, referring to American Furniture Warehouse founder Jake Jabs. “You can look at it two ways. That force is going to take business away from you, or that force will generate tremendous furniture traffic, and I tend to look at it as he will generate tremendous furniture traffic.”
Jabs and the company he started in 1975 will open their 14th Colorado location at a time when local furniture stores have fought to maintain customers or struggled to keep their doors open. Ashley Furniture Homestore closed its two Grand Junction locations and one Montrose location in January. American Furniture Co., which was located at 865 North Ave. for more than 60 years, closed in February and reopened in June as La Z Boy Furniture Galleries.
Furniture store operators say they’re beginning to regain some of the profits they lost in 2009 but that they haven’t fully recovered.
Quinnell said American Furniture isn’t concerned about the economy’s slow recovery.
“We have everything for every price range and budget,” he said. “The bulk majority of our business is on the mid-to-lower-range stuff. That’s what people like. It allows them to feel good about their purchase and not feel guilty about replacing in three, four, five years when their styles change or when they want to upgrade.”
He said the company can keep its prices low because it pays cash to its vendors.
Bassett Home Furnishings, 325 W. Gunnison Ave., will be a neighbor to American Furniture Warehouse, and owner Rick Wise thinks he stands to gain from that juxtaposition.
“Our feeling is with us being next-door neighbors, once the initial ‘new kid on the block’ wears off, we’ll see more footsteps in our door,” Wise said, adding he thinks American Furniture Warehouse will bring in more shoppers from outside the community.
He, Bennett and the owner of Holman House Furniture noted they often cater to a different customer base. Their stores employ designers, feature customized furniture and allow special orders.
“Being a nice store is not as easy as the lower end,” said Troy Holman, owner of Holman House Furniture, 2494 U.S. Highway 6&50. “You have to educate people about quality and why they’re paying more.”
Bennett says he and fellow owner Kevin Meacham converted American Furniture Co. into a La Z Boy Furniture Galleries because they had long been interested in becoming a specialty store, and they wanted to distinguish themselves from American Furniture Warehouse
“It may be slow for the first couple of months,” Bennett said of Jabs’ impact on his business. “Overall, I have to be optimistic. He will bring in a lot of western Colorado furniture traffic. Those people are going to shop.”