Archive for Thursday, August 5, 2010

Furniture stores opening in former food store on South Iowa

A vacant building on south Iowa Street will now be home to three new businesses. The Topeka-based stores will sell mostly furniture items.

August 5, 2010


After about five years of sitting empty, a multimillion-dollar project has brought the old Food-4-Less building on South Iowa Street back to life.

A Topeka-based retail group on Thursday officially marked the opening of three new furniture stores that are doing business in the 45,000-square-foot building at 2525 Iowa.

Discovery Furniture, RoomMakers and Mattress Headquarters have opened in the former grocery store that was one of the larger vacant pieces of retail property in the city.

“We’ve heard from a lot of customers in Lawrence who said they wanted more choices when it comes to furniture,” said Jamie Winter, manager and co-owner of the store with other members of the Winter family from Topeka.

The new stores are employing 25 people. Although all are commonly owned, the building is broken into three stores. Discovery sells several lines of furniture and offers special orders. RoomMakers exclusively sells the Ashley Furniture brand. Mattress Headquarters focuses solely on bedding.

City leaders have praised Discovery’s move to Lawrence as one of the more promising signs for the city’s retail industry, which currently is being studied by a special task force at City Hall.

“They saw Lawrence as being a little under-served and they decided to get into the market,” said City Commissioner Rob Chestnut, who also chairs the city’s Retail Task Force. “That’s what we need to have happen.”

Chestnut said the Retail Task Force is considering forwarding a recommendation to the City Commission that it hire an outside company to conduct an analysis of what retail areas are most under-served in Lawrence.

“I think the task force is finding that information is going to be so instrumental in deciding what we want to target and what areas we really have a strong case to make to an entrepreneur,” Chestnut said.

The study could cost $50,000 to $100,000, Chestnut said. He said he likely will urge the county commission, and perhaps some nearby communities, to participate in the cost since the study would look at the entire county.

“I think it will produce the kind of information that will be as important to our existing retailers as it would be to new retailers,” Chestnut said. “Existing retailers can look at it to help them decide whether to expand or tweak their inventory.”

Chestnut said the task force likely will decide whether to recommend such a study sometime this fall.


Steve Jacob 7 years, 10 months ago

Good luck. Nebraska Furniture Mart has shut down many stores within the area, so it's a gamble.

overthemoon 7 years, 10 months ago

They only have three many is many?

fan4kufootball 7 years, 10 months ago

Do you consider almost 10% sales tax rate at NFM when deciding if they have "good prices"? That area has the "special" sales tax rate in addition to the regular sales tax.

Edwin Rothrock 7 years, 10 months ago

At NFM, the sales tax you pay doesn't support Lawrence services, your purchase doesn't get passed along as wages to Lawrence residents, and it doesn't help keep the Lawrence economy strong. Shopping locally helps keep property taxes down, helps keep the demand for publicly funded services low (by lowering unemployment), and keeps your neighbors in business. Low price and high value are not the same thing.

LogicMan 7 years, 10 months ago

"NU and CU to leave the Big-12"

I, and maybe you too, continue to move my purchasing, when possible, from Colorado- and Nebraska-based businesses to other states, especially those state with institutions loyal to the Big-12.

Goodbye NFM, hello Discovery Furniture, RoomMakers and Mattress Headquarters! Excellent (and lucky) timing on coming to town.

sundowner 7 years, 10 months ago

Mr. Chestnut - we do not need to spend money we don't have right now

Steve Jacob 7 years, 10 months ago

I agree, it's up to business to decide what we need, not the government.

BigPrune 7 years, 10 months ago

I wonder if the "consultant" company will have any relations to anyone on the "task force"?

Here's a freebie as to why Lawrence is underserved: The City of Lawrence's own restrictive policies and zoning; and The Legends. Geez

Tgill 7 years, 10 months ago

The Winter family has been in the furniture business for a long time competing with the NFM don't think they will be going anywhere for a long time Welcome to Lawrence a much needed retail establishment...................The big difference between NFM and the new store in Lawrence is the fact that you can actually get some customer service in any one of the new Winter Family stores Discovery Mattress Headquarters or RoomMakers

Marc Mondi 7 years, 10 months ago

I don't really feel that customer service has been an issue on any of my visits to NFM... after all, the salespeople on the floor work on commission, so most are eager to service you, and for the most part are pretty knowledgeable in the departments they are working in.

Stephanie Harris 7 years, 10 months ago

Earlier this summer we bought new bed sets at the store in Topeka and were very pleased with the service, quality and value. I'm happy to see them here in Lawrence....much needed!!

friendlyjhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Mr. Chestnut, Lawrence is not under-served, it is over-taxed, over-budget, over-rated and overly impressed with itself.

blindrabbit 7 years, 10 months ago

Looking forward to the store. I hope the roaches from the Food-4-Less operation have had sufficient time to pack-up and leave.

cellogrl 7 years, 10 months ago

I bought my dining room table from Discovery Furniture about 4 years ago and I LOVE it. Didn't have any trouble with them. Their prices were reasonable and the customer service was great. Would buy from them again in a heartbeat.

he_who_knows_all 7 years, 10 months ago

I just hope that this store can make the continuously "going out of business" store across street out of business for real.

Mike Hatch 7 years, 10 months ago

No lie. Do they still have that obnoxious strobe light in their front window? That ought to be against the law.

he_who_knows_all 7 years, 10 months ago

I'm not sure. I'm always distracted by the person dancing with the sign because they always look like they're ready to jump out in the street.

Jake Dale 7 years, 10 months ago

They're not "continuously 'going out OF business'". A closer inspection of the sign indicates they're "going out FOR business".

he_who_knows_all 7 years, 10 months ago

oh yeah...I forgot about their little play on words.

IrishCat 7 years, 10 months ago

no joke, Payless Furniture once sold me a three legged sofa that was flat in two weeks, with nails sticking out of the board so far it sliced a pair of pants clear down the backside. And, they delivered it by sending one guy in a pick up truck. My daughter and I had to help the guy lift it and bring it into the house and this was AFTER I paid for a delivery fee. I'd love to see them go out of business.

Pete_Schweti 7 years, 10 months ago

Nono, they're going out FOR Business. You have to read the sign carefully.

That Payless bunch is a clever lot.

flux 7 years, 10 months ago

I wouldnt buy anything from those clowns

thepianoman 7 years, 10 months ago

It's going out FOR business....not going out of....LOL....

fan4kufootball 7 years, 10 months ago

I was curious about that never ending "going out of business" sales they have going on there so the last time I drove by there I noticed the signage actually says "going out for business".....

StirrrThePot 7 years, 10 months ago

I miss Ed Marlings. Hopefully this new set of stores isn't completely full of made-in-China crap.

kef104 7 years, 10 months ago

There was a small article in the paper when they closed. Ed Marlings complained the Lawrence market was not profitable enough saying something similar to "they want Cadillac quality but only want to pay for a Ford. They seem to have no issues with the Topeka market.

Take_a_letter_Maria 7 years, 10 months ago

The biggest problem with Ed Marlings is they wanted Ferrari prices on Kia quality.

djoem 7 years, 10 months ago

Count on it- If not China, Indonesia, Mexico, or take your pick of emerging economies. But to be fair, the big retailers don't have much choice but to push the import goods if they want to compete in the mainstream.

Retail furniture is mostly a commodity now- That means good value for your dollar, but its all about price. Quality has almost no place in the manufacturing equation anymore except as it relates to marketing.

cj123 7 years, 10 months ago

I went today looking for a mirror. They had a lot of nice stuff for reasonable prices but not many mirrors.

vegetablegirl 7 years, 10 months ago

I went to Discovery Furniture on Monday and found an awesome bedroom set. Before buying, I thought it would be best to go to Nebraska F Mart to make sure I was getting the best deal. Saw nothing that I liked more than the one at Discovery Furniture and the prices at Nebraska F Mart were WAY higher. So, back to DF last night and signed on the dotted line!

John Hamm 7 years, 10 months ago

"hire an outside company to conduct an analysis of what retail areas ....... in Lawrence. “I think the task force is finding that information ......... deciding what we want to target" What?!?!? I might suggest you "target" anything to get this Town's economy moving again! Jobs is jobs and Lord knows Lawrence needs some.

parrothead8 7 years, 10 months ago

A retail task force at a cost of $50-100k is just an irresponsible use of our tax dollars. Doesn't it seem like there should be an easier, cheaper way to figure out what kind of businesses the citizens of Douglas County would patronize? Like letting businesses come in and decide for themselves? The best business ideas aren't forced...they happen organically. I can asure the leaders of Lawrence that if there IS a buck to be made in Lawrence, someone will figure out what it is and open a relevant business.

BigPrune 7 years, 10 months ago

The problem is there is no place to go, or the City's restrictive policies makes it cost prohibitive for a business to take that "all or nothing" and time consuming gamble. Really surprised nobody gets it, that or they want someone from the outside to point out the obvious, for $50-$100,000.

parrothead8 7 years, 10 months ago

Restrictive policies mean nothing to a business that knows there's money to be made, and you and I both know it. Cash buys a lot of leeway.

BigPrune 7 years, 10 months ago

It does mean something to a business that's considering Lawrence and 20 other communities that don't have all the red tape that Lawrence requires. If some company is expanding and they know it will take a year to a year and a half and a major expense to come to Lawrence or they can go to 20 other communities and be open for business in 4 to 6 months, that company is going to completely bypass Lawrence.

When Lawrence has a national reputation for being one of the most restrictive communities in the country, it doesn't bode well for recruiting new businesses to town.

parrothead8 7 years, 10 months ago

If there is money to be made - and there IS money to be made - you don't have to recruit businesses to come to your town, and no amount of red tape will keep them out. Look at Target, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Best Buy, etc. They're here.

I've lived in five states now over the last decade, and I've never heard of Lawrence being "one of the most restrictive communities in the country" when it comes to business. Honestly, about the only time the rest of the country thinks about Lawrence is when KU basketball is on ESPN.

eclipsed71 7 years, 10 months ago

Ashley is one company that NFM carries, but not the only one. And very low quality? Have you shopped for furniture lately? Ashley is a very large company with a lot of different styles and price ranges. Bedroom sets for example can run from $500 to $5000. You could put a nice Ashley bedroom set next to a Thomasville or Broyhill bedroom set and not see much difference in construction or finish. Most of these sets are being made overseas, with plants from these companies side by side. Next time you go shopping check around, don't just look at the cheapest price stuff.

sherbert 7 years, 10 months ago

I can't believe they'd be considering a study like that at this time. We're broke, we need jobs. Free Market will determine where to open a business, the citys job is to make Lawrence friendly enough that businesses can afford and want to come here!!

Tgill 7 years, 10 months ago

Stirrr the pot You can find American made stuff but you sure won't like the price especially if you are looking at dining or bedroom furniture

Kelly Cline 7 years, 10 months ago

Are you serious?? A huge waste of taxpayer dollars, Mr. Chestnut, to pay that sum of money to "find out" what retail we need in Lawrence. I work in a retail store in Lawrence and sad, but true, lots of folks travel to KC to do their shopping. My store gets the Lawrence folks who are out of work, unemployed and trying to make ends meet. Go to Salvation Army or Half Price Books and you'll see a bunch of shoppers! Does this tell you anything? People are looking for the deals! Glad to see a new furniture store in town. Hopefully the locals will support it and stop travelling out of town.

greenworld 7 years, 10 months ago

All I know is that I believe Ron Johnson is relocating from a furniture store in Kc to work at this one in lawrence. Ron's one of the oldie but goodies from the Johnson furniture days downtown. Go see him and I guarantee you he will give you one heck of a deal.

formerlyanonymous 7 years, 10 months ago

Amen friendlyjhawk. We do not need a study in this area. Lawrence commissions WAY too many studies. If a study is necessary, why can't we use our own planners???

Randall Barnes 7 years, 10 months ago

mr.chestnut you allways say buy local shop local well then you practice what you outside firm to do the worthless study.get with the chamber there are several companies wanting to build where there is a rail spur.well nyour former farmland has a rail spur hmmmmmmmm. maby you need to do a study for that and i'm sure they would split the cost with you on the cleanup. ohhh wait that would make sense.

eclipsed71 7 years, 10 months ago

Ashley is a huge company and they have a large assortment of furniture. Ashley makes solid wood furniture as well as the cheaper particleboard construction. To categorize their furniture as disposable is a ignorant generalization at best. That is like saying white people are stupid because you have two friends who are white and stupid. And about the person you know who sells Ashley, care to put his name in print? I've never met anyone in the furniture business who didn't love Ashley, except for the competition.

May Soo 7 years, 10 months ago

Payless Furniture is a joke, their customer service is terrible. They sold us an on display couch but telling us that it was from the storage, if you have to lie to the customer, at least be smart enough to not remove the couch from your displaying floor in front of the customer!j When we asked for a refund, the guy (owner) gave us $50 short.

Lee Eldridge 7 years, 10 months ago

Went to the ribbon cutting yesterday. The store is beautiful. Prices are good, and good selection of furniture. I really hope Lawrencians will support the store and shop there BEFORE heading out to NFM.

We bought a couch and chair at their Topeka location years ago. Very pleased with the quality, price and service.

Raiden 7 years, 10 months ago

Mr. Chestnut, aka Bombastic, Self-serving, ego-centric nitwit doesn't give a hoot about Lawrence, as seen by the projects he's involved with....he only cares about something that he can get something out of for personal gain. He's a danger to Lawrence in that he'll be happy to turn Lawrence into some generic ghost of what it used to be....some place we won't recognize in the not to distant future....and I'm not anti-growth, rather smart growth....not growth at any cost. It seems Lawrence could use a furniture store so I wish them well, but not if the 'City Fathers (NOT) are willing to give the baby with the bath water in abatements, etc....income the city won't see for years while the city complains about lack of funding resources. Oh well, we the citizens also don't stand our ground against these 'leaders' so we're as much at fault.

helloannie 7 years, 10 months ago

Why should Lawrence folks feel pressure to shop locally when the local store in question is substandard? I'm tired of hearing shop local, when our options here are limited and the town likes to keep them that way. Why would I shop local when I can get a better product for a cheaper price with better customer service somewhere in Kansas City?

I was looking for a piece of furniture recently and decided to try the new furniture store before heading out to KC. I walked by four salespeople all talking to each other and had to ask them twice for help before they stopped their conversation to help me. The bed frames they offer seem to be made out of plasterboard and are lucky if they are two inches wide. And for this flimsy piece of furniture that looks like you can punch a hole through, they are charging twice what NFM are for a better quality product. Instead of having a section to look at couches, they are all over the entire store, thus you have to canvas the entire store to even remotely find what you are looking for. I will never step foot in the new place again and happily found what I was looking for at NFM.

Adrienne Sanders 7 years, 10 months ago

I don't know where you were, but the store this article is about hadn't opened until yesterday. So when you were shopping "recently" you must have been at some other store.

Mike Hatch 7 years, 10 months ago

Sounds like they were at Payless.

Great to hear this new store is opening up. Good to see something in that vacant building.

For sturdy, real wood furniture, there's always estate auctions. Most people go to auctions for the small collectibles and have no way to get a dining room/living room set home, so it usually sells pretty inexpensively. If you have a way to get it home, can get some pretty decent value that way.

helloannie 7 years, 10 months ago

Nope. Not at Payless. Hate the place and wouldn't consider buying anything there. Went to the new store where Food for Less was on Wednesday and yes, it was open.

eclipsed71 7 years, 10 months ago

Wow, you had to canvas the entire store to look at sofas? Sounds a lot easier than driving to KC, parking in that huge NFM lot, walking a mile to get INSIDE the store, then having to walk through an even bigger store to get to the living room section. And why were you looking for a bed frame that was two inches wide? Do you have a mattress that is two inches wide?

CHKNLTL 7 years, 10 months ago

People would spend more in this town if they could get a job with a paycheck!! And LOWER rent!

fan4kufootball 7 years, 10 months ago

For me - I am very pleased just to see that building occupied.

ssakcaj 7 years, 10 months ago

That is the building where they should have put the new library.

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