The former in the Wynnewood Shopping Center, which after the national chain liquidized in the wake of bankruptcy, will be open again for business within days as a furniture outlet called Affordable Home Furnishings.
“We’re not ready to open yet, but we’re going to do the best we can,” said owner and operator Barney Daley, a veteran of the furniture business in the tri-state area, during a phone interview with Patch Thursday evening.
Due to lease requirements with (NYSE: FRT), the Rockville, Md.-based owner of the shopping center, the store must be open within days of occupying the space, Daley said, “but it’s going to take us about a month to get the whole thing going. It’s a big place.”
“This is a unique location ... All the major guys are gone.”—Barney Daley
At more than 26,000 square feet over two floors, he’s not kidding. But Daley, 70, is an old pro at filling large retail spaces with tables, ottomans and leather wingbacks—he started in the business with his father almost 60 years ago, when he was 13. Currently, he has locations in Norristown and one in Voorhees, N.J. (Affordable Consignment Furniture) that’s about 50,000 square feet.
This is at least the second former Borders that Federal Realty has leased out to a furniture store. Earlier this month, the Chevy Chase Patch in Maryland reported that the company leased the shuttered Borders there to Roche Bobois, an upscale furniture store down the block from the old bookseller that will use the extra space to store surplus furniture for the Christmas holidays. for the space, a manager said.
Aside from the mandate to open his doors pronto, Daley would not discuss other terms of his lease in Wynnewood.
Daley also has had furniture stores under the KlaussnerHome brand in Manayunk, Springfield (Delaware County) and Wilmington, among other locations and other store names. Like most long-time survivors in his line or work, he’s had successes and failures alike.
“This is a unique location—there’s not a furniture store to my knowledge from the Schuylkill to Springfield,” he said. In any case, “there’s very few on the Main Line—probably in King of Prussia and a few consignment stores” here and there. “But really, all the major guys are gone.”
By “major guys,” he’s referring to national chains like Restoration Hardware (formerly with locations in Ardmore’s Suburban Square and in Manayunk) that have drastically withdrawn their corporate footprint or folded altogether, and regional family-run stores like that have quietly gone out of business after many decades.
To Federal Realty’s credit, the store has not had many days with the lights off since Borders sold its last book. For about a month, . (Halloween stores, evidently, .)
‘I like what I do.’
Normally, Daley said, he would never open a store in an area like Lower Merion, preferring major highway locations in the past for maximum drive-by eyeball value. “But this is a great neighborhood with a great demographic, and I think there’s a big opportunity there.”
That said, the furniture business is tough even in the best of times, Daley said. In hard times like the present, when discretionary income is in short general supply, a new sofa-bed or recliner is “not on the top of people’s shopping list.”
“I think the name exactly reflects the times right now. … We don’t profess to be Neiman Marcus.”
But his gamble on the lower Main Line might pay off. The E. Wynnewood Road location is central to a dozen or more colleges and universities, with tens of thousands of dorm rooms. It is also midway between Ardmore and Narberth, both towns with a high number of renters and apartment-dwellers, along with first-time homebuyers.
Even in Wynnewood proper, the store is across the street from the sprawling and a stone’s throw from the .
“I like what I do, and I’ve had people work for me 28, 25 years. And during times like this, I’m trying to employ people. That’s my main goal.”
Daley said the Wynnewood store would probably employ 10 people, perhaps more—at this point it’s too early to tell.
“We’re trying to get people to be able to afford furniture, but there’s all kinds of levels to that.” Daley said you can pick up merchandise in his stores for a couple hundred bucks, or you can spend $30,000 for a room full of Ethan Allen.
Keeping up appearances
The term affordable is relative, he said, though he has learned that putting the word on the side of a large brick building in a relatively wealthy enclave can be somewhat ... oh, disconcerting to the powers that be.
Turns out, Daley’s landlord told him that at least one Lower Merion Township official, charged with signing off on use and permit of the space, had a problem with a furniture store with the name “Affordable” in its title.
“I think the name exactly reflects the times right now,” Daley said. “We don’t profess to be Neiman Marcus. We do have higher-end merchandise, but we have lower-priced goods—we have affordable furniture ... that’s what we do.”
But hey, no hard feelings, Daley said. He’s just happy to be here.
“I understand,” Daley laughed. “They’ve got an image they want to keep up there, ya know? But I hope it works for the neighborhood and I hope it works for us too.”
“I don’t think the name, such as it is ... I don’t think it’s offensive.