KANSAS CITY, KAN. The world's second-richest man promised Friday that his new Nebraska Furniture Mart store in western Wyandotte County quickly would become the largest-selling furniture store in the United States.
Nebraska billionaire Warren Buffett on Friday morning officially threw open the doors of the 16-acre building adjacent to the Kansas Speedway, about a 25-minute drive east of Lawrence.
Buffett was not specific about how much the store would generate in sales but assured Kansas officials it would provide a nice bump in sales tax revenues.
"It will be the largest furniture store in the United States, in terms of sales, that is for sure," Buffett said. "We do about $350 million a year in the Omaha store, and I'm confident we'll do much more than that here."
Buffett -- the "Sage of Omaha" who has amassed a $30 billion fortune by investing in silver, Coca-Cola, insurance companies and smaller ventures like the Dairy Queen chain -- said the store already was ahead of projections. It had a "soft opening" beginning Aug. 1 and has done about double the amount of sales company officials expected.
"In fact, we've had so much success with this soft opening, I'm kind of against having an opening," Buffett said. "I think we ought to stay in this mode forever."
The store, which includes 450,000 square feet of retail space and 262,000 square feet of warehouse space, is part of the Village West development that includes Cabela's, Great Wolf Lodge and several restaurants. The furniture store employs 800 people.
Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Carol Marinovich said the store was a major part of the city's economic development plan.
"It ties in exactly with our vision of creating a destination point in Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte County," Marinovich said. "Kansas City, Kansas, is definitely undergoing a renaissance."
Buffett, though, said he wasn't always so sure about locating a store in the area.
"Mayor Marinovich looked at this 400 acres of barren land and saw a NASCAR track, a Cabela's, a lodge and a world-class furniture store," Buffett said. "I looked at this 400 acres of barren land and I saw 400 acres of barren land.
"They don't ask for my opinion very often, and I guess that's a good idea. But I call down here every day to get the sales numbers, and let me tell you: Every day this store is becoming more and more my idea."
So far, Lawrence furniture store owners say they don't fear the mega-store, which can accommodate 11,000 customers at one time. James Hill, owner of Sleepy Sheep Mattress Co. in Lawrence and Oak Classics in Perry, said his sales hadn't declined in the two weeks Nebraska Furniture Mart has been open.
|A gala Thursday evening at Nebraska Furniture Mart raised $234,000 for breast cancer services at KU Med, officials said Friday.The money was from admission fees and an auction. The auction highlight was a lunch for four with Warren Buffett, the billionaire who attended the event, which was purchased for $90,000 by Del Dunmire, a businessman from Harrisonville, Mo.The proceeds will go to new mammography equipment at KU Med, the hospital affiliated with Kansas University.About 1,200 people attended the gala.|
He said he thought the store might actually benefit some smaller furniture stores.
"Because of all the advertising they do, it piques people's interest in furniture buying," Hill said. "Every time they advertise, it causes a few people to say they need a new piece of furniture, but people will still shop around and make the right decision for them."