Henco transforms Tenn. showroom into ‘50s Main St.
August 16, 2004,
|Henco owners Tom and Sherry Hendrix stand in the store’s interior streetscape.|
SELMER, Tenn. — Henco Furniture has opened its totally renovated and transformed store here, completing a project that created a retailing and entertainment environment previously unknown in this west Tennessee market.(Also see Henco Furniture at a glance.) The retailer earlier this year finished the café portion of its 80,000-square-foot showroom, but the total transformation — from average warehouse showroom to a replica of a small-town 1950s Main Street — was a work in progress for about 18 months. The promotional to high-end store looks a bit like El Dorado’s boulevard showrooms in South Florida and Jordan’s New Orleans-themed store in Natick, Mass., but with a small-town retro twist. “People don’t really know they’re in a furniture store,” said Henco founder Tom Hendrix. “They’re totally taken aback. They come in here and they have never seen anything like this.”
|Henco’s Silver Spoons Fine Dining Establishment includes upscale casual dining groups with country French influences from Universal, Lorts, Nichols & Stone, Kincaid and Furniture Classics.|
He estimated sales will reach an annual run rate of about $12 million this summer, up from the $5 million to $7 million range last year. The store’s interior features a central street, complete with tree-lined Responsibility Park, Grady’s filling station, a post office and other props. Henco created nearly 30 storefronts, and although most are elaborate faux fronts (such as Got Rocks Jewelry, Ben Fleeced Realty and Shady’s Pool Hall), seven lead into home furnishings display areas. Dr. Doze’s Sleep Clinic houses the 2,000-square-foot bedding department with goods from Sealy, Restonic and Simmons. Fiber optic points of light suspended from the ceiling give it a starry atmosphere. The Turning Inn Bed & Breakfast showcases bedroom furniture by Bernhardt, American Drew, Lane, Universal, Pulaski, Royal Patina and Legacy Classic.
|Dr. Doze’s Sleep Clinic features Simmons, Sealy and Restonic bedding under starry, color-changing lighting. The 2,000-square-foot area also includes iron beds displays from Powell, Wesley Allen and American Drew.|
Then there’s Hendrix House, which serves as the entrance to the stationary upholstery area with frames from C.R. Laine, Bernhardt, Clayton Marcus and others. And dining room furniture from Nichols & Stone, Dinec, Canadel, Universal, Largo and others is in the Silver Spoons Fine Dining Establishment. Breakfast room and sunroom groupings are in the Red Barn section, complete with stacked hay bales and a stuffed rooster peering down from the rafters. Webb Weavers Emporium has area rugs. For home office and home entertainment furniture, shoppers enter State Theatre, which includes a marquee and ticket booth.
|Shoppers stop for a bite to eat at Henco’s Whistle Stop Café, the final piece completed in the store’s 18-month showroom transformation.|
The newest area — the Whistle Stop Café — serves gourmet soups, sandwiches, salads, homemade pies and the house specialty, fried green tomatoes, in an environment designed to resemble two railroad cars pulled up next to each other. Adjacent to the café is the Smith Drug Store, serving ice cream all day.
Henco Bank & Trust seems like another faux front, but actually is a customer service station where consumers place orders, pay bills and arrange financing.
Hendrix, an area entrepreneur, opened Henco in 1996 as a post-retirement project of sorts. The showroom is attached to a 120,000-square-foot warehouse, part of the property Hendrix already owned in a Selmer industrial park. That gave Hendrix a low-overhead advantage as he learned the furniture business.
Within a few years, the business was growing rapidly. Today, about 45% of Henco’s business comes from the greater Memphis market, about 100 miles away. The store also draws from as far away as Tupelo, Miss., and north to Jackson, Tenn. — a good thing considering Selmer has a population of just 4,500.
|Goods from Bernhardt, Bradington-Young, Legacy Leather and Lane are among the highlights in a 3,600-square-foot leather display in the Reid Moore Library.|
As the business took off, Hendrix came to believe his warehouse showroom might be a bit large and overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors. So he set out to improve the shopping experience. He visited about 10 furniture retailers, including Jordan’s, Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha, and Gallery Furniture in Houston, and came home with yellow pads full of notes.
“I’ve always had two goals in everything I’ve ever done,” Hendrix said: “To help the people that go with me to grow to their full (potential) and to upgrade the industry I’m in. I want to be an example in any industry I’m in (of) a better way to do it.”
*Copy/Layout Editor Carol Trader contributed to this story.