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David Perry

Gardner-White drives growth

Gardner-White operatesGardner-White operates this store-within-a-store inside the Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Best Buy.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Call this a Motor City Renaissance.
     Gardner-White is making major moves in the metro Detroit market, opening its biggest store here and also opening two store-within-a-store areas in local Best Buys.
     All are off to strong starts, said Steve Tronstein, president of Gardner-White and one of the architects of the 100-year-old company's current growth surge. The three stores added in the past few months give the retailer 10 stores.
     A resurgent Detroit economy is helping to fuel Gardner- White's growth.
     "The people who are working are working a lot and developing some confidence," said Tronstein. "And the auto industry has confidence."
     Added Restonic President Ron Passaglia, who visited the retailer recently: "The Motor City's motor is running again."
     Gardner-White's big new store, a 455,000-square-foot warehouse and showroom, is located in this Detroit suburb, down the road from the towering Chrysler world headquarters, one of the many signs of the auto industry's presence here.
     Tronstein said the auto industry and related businesses remain the dominant employer in the area. "When the car business is good,"
Gardner-White’sGardner-White’s flagship store is in Auburn Hills, Mich.
he said, "we sell furniture. That is not true around the country."
     Gardner-White's growth push in Detroit catches some industry observers by surprise. "Most people think that Detroit is down and out," Tronstein said. "They can't believe we are doing this in this economy."
     The independent family-owned retailer, which recently welcomed another generation to the business, is on a roll. Its new flagship store, fashioned from an empty building in a business park, features some 375,000 square feet of warehouse space with modern racking and storage systems.
     The store is in a great neighborhood, Tronstein said the other day, stepping outside at dusk to point out strong retailers in the area, including Sam's Club, Home Depot and Target. Interstate 75, a major transportation corridor, serves the area.
     The store "is off to a really good start," Tronstein said. It includes an expansive bedding department that features mattresses by Simmons, Tempur-Pedic, Serta and Restonic.
     As if that store wasn't enough to keep him and his wife, Barbara, who oversees advertising, busy, the retailer is also part of a test with Best Buy that has put two big Gardner-White presentations in Best Buy stores in Detroit suburbs.
     An 8,000-square-foot Gardner- White store-within-a-store is in the Best Buy in Bloomfield Hills, while a 10,000-squarefoot Gardner-White store is in the Best Buy in Novi.

Rachel Tronstein of Gardner-White welcomes Bob Quinn, left, and Ron Passaglia, both of Restonic, to a Restonic bedding section in the Gardner-White store in Best Buy.

Rachel Tronstein
The retailer’s operation
The retailer’s operation in Auburn Hills includes this 375,000- square-foot warehouse.
Steve and Rachel Tronstein try out some sports-themed seating groups at a Gardner-White store inside Best Buy.

     The Gardner-White stores in Best Buy have big mattress presentations and also display living room furniture and motion furniture, in addition to several big-screen TVs.
     The Gardner-White/Best Buy pairing should benefit both retailers, said Rachel Tronstein, Steve and Barbara's daughter, who recently joined Gardner-White.
     "Women don't like shopping for electronics, but they do like home furnishings," she said. So there's something for both partners to like at the stores.
     On a recent evening, the Gardner-White store in Best Buy's Bloomfield Hills store was busy.
     Several couples and families were looking at mattresses, a development that impressed Restonic's Passaglia.
     "You wouldn't typically see this kind of activity in a mattress department on a weeknight," he said.
     Rachel Tronstein, who most recently worked at the U.S. Department of Energy, is focusing on the Best Buy program and other key initiatives. Steve Tronstein says she will bring "organization and discipline" to the company.
     Rachel Tronstein said she sees "a lot of opportunities to expand our market through merchandising."

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