With the expansion of large-scale furniture stores in the Kansas City area, Brian Martin still believes shoppers can get what they want in Lawrence.
"I try to carry everything that people need - from things geared toward college students all the way to the upper end," said the owner of Affordable Home Furniture, 708 Conn.
Martin recently bought the 20-year-old Lawrence business from his father, Wayne. Martin and his uncle, Butch, are the only employees. They make all of the sales and unload all of the new merchandise once a week.
Martin has lived most of his life in Lawrence and says he still relies on his experience as a state track and football champion at Lawrence High School and All-American 400-meter runner at Kansas University.
After your track career ended at KU, what did you do?
I worked around (the store), off and on. I moved to Sacramento (Calif.) for a while and ran for a club team. In 1999, I moved back here, and I opened a restaurant for a little while. Red Hot Grill, near 23rd and Louisiana.
Age: 31 Job: Owner, Affordable Home Furniture, 708 Conn. Family: Wife, Chelsea; three children, ages 4, 2 and 1, with one on the way. Education: Lawrence High School graduate, 1993; attended Kansas University on track and field scholarship. Athletic career: State high school champion in 400-meter dash and 1600-meter relay; College, 1996 Indoor Track and Field All-American, 400-meter dash.
I was there for about a year and a half. It was long hours, so it was a lot of frustration as probably with any restaurant. It was fun. It was a learning experience; it taught me a lot of business firsthand.
Then I came back here and worked here a little bit off and on, then in 2001 that's when I started off full time into (the furniture store).
Why did you decide to buy your dad's store?
He had the bowling alley and the furniture store at the same time, and it was taking up too much of his time. He had to do one or the other, and he'd been doing this for 20 years, so he decided to just stick with the bowling alley.
How does your athletic career still help you as a business owner?
It gives me a better work ethic. It helped me realize that you have to work on what you do every day to get better at it or to improve it. Athletics gave me a lot of confidence in my life that I could do a lot of stuff. The harder I worked, the more I could get out of life.
Affordable Home Furniture
What is your focus as the owner?
We still like to continue what we've had here the last couple of years. We like to keep people shopping locally so that they don't have to travel to Kansas City or Topeka. That's our main focus here because there's not a lot of stores left in Lawrence.
We like to have relationships with customers, so they end up growing to like us. They know us, and they see us at the grocery store or just out and about around town. We want to be able to talk to them. That's the way we built rapport with people, especially since we are from here.
What would you do if you didn't own the store?
I'd be a chef. I'd go to culinary school and do something in that field. I do a lot of cooking at home. I like to cook for people, too. I try to experiment with everything. I'm a big Food Network fan.
Who has influenced your life the most?
A tie between my dad and my wife, Chelsea. My dad, he taught me a lot about the retail business in general - not only just the furniture aspect. He taught me how to budget; he taught me how to sell - impact sales without being too pushy.
My wife just taught me about patience. Everyone knows you have to be a patient person in a marriage. We met here (at the store). She works at CitiFinancial. They do our financing. She came in and asked me out on a date. So that's kind of how it started.