• Clint Engel

Harvey spares Ashley HomeStores in Victoria, Corpus Christi

Owners move to deliver bedding directly to hardest-hit towns.

VICTORIA, Texas — It could have been so much worse for BPEC Enterprises, the Ashley HomeStore licensee with a store here and another in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Early forecasts called for Hurricane Harvey to make landfall right around Corpus Christi, but instead, it moved a little north, putting the eye between the two Ashley stores, said Ben Streiff, BPEC president.

“Even though we’re about 115 miles apart, both (cities) were slammed pretty good,” Streiff said. The Corpus Christi store, however, sustained only minor exterior damages (a small piece of signage blew off) and never lost power.

The Victoria store wasn’t as lucky, although the damage was not nearly as extensive as the damage to Lacks Valley Stores’ new showroom here. The HomeStore lost one air conditioning unit that was blown off the roof, and other units were damaged. Streiff said the storm also exposed roof leaks that the retailer didn’t know existed until now, and that caused some damage, too.

“But thank goodness we have such a great contractor,” Streiff said. “He and his crew started working on it Sunday, in the dark, and they already have 90% of the damage repaired.”

All 75 of the retailer’s employees have been accounted for and either safely rode out the storm or evacuated. Some lost everything. One employee, part of a family of four, came back to a home that was flipped on its side and then smashed by a fallen tree.

“We’ve already committed to help them and get then that what they need right away,” he said, referring to any employees who came back to devastation.

When Streiff spoke to Furniture Today on Wednesday morning, the power had just been restored in Victoria, a relief to Streiff and his wife, Page, owners of the business, who have been itching to do their part in the recovery effort.

“We are very active in our community, and we want to get out there and help, but with no power, it’s been tough,” he said.

“Our service areas were the hardest hit — Rockport, Port Aransas, Refugio.” If not for the severe flooding in Houston, “they would have been front and center in the news,” he said. “A lot it them were devastated.” An Associated Press video posted on YouTube noted that nearly every building in Refugio was damaged by the storm.

One of Streiff’s first moves will be to load up his trucks with bedding and set up temporary shop in these outlying towns, so residents don’t have to travel to the stores.

“We’ll be a central place they can come to get some bedding and at least get as comfortable as they can be given the situation,” he said.

Streiff has been working with all four of the retailer’s major vendors, who have been eager to help. Ashley corporate reached out Tuesday, he said, and another call was scheduled for today, “because they want to do something in the community to help out.”

And all three of its key bedding sources — Serta, Simmons and Tempur-Pedic — “have been absolutely fabulous” with their support, he added.

Streiff said the bedding will be offered at steep discounts, “nowhere near retail,” and that the company is hoping for vendor donations that his HomeStores can, in turn, donate to area shelters and places where the first responders are staying.

He’s seen the same kind of support from his local tight-knit community. Local businesses are going out of their way to help local businesses get up and running, and the help spreads out from there. That’s why Streiff’s contractor started at the Victoria store three days ago, for instance.

Others have stepped up, too, "because that’s kind of how our area works,” he said. “Victoria and Corpus Christi are the hubs for the smaller towns that don’t have the same amenities. They look to us for help, and it’s good knowing we can help.

“I’ll tell you, as divided as this country seems right now, with all the political stuff that goes on, if anything good is coming out of this tragedy, it’s that it shows people are not as divided as you think. Unity still exists.”

Streiff doesn’t think it will be too long before business gets back to normal. In Corpus Christ, the HomeStore reopened Tuesday. Salespeople were handwriting tickets because the power to the computer servers in Victoria was still down. But “even writing on paper, we had a fairly good day,” he said.

“And in Victoria, we’re hoping next week it will be business and usual.”

Clint EngelClint Engel | Senior Retail Editor, Furniture Today

Please feel free to email or call me with all of your retail news and tips, including expansion news, successful merchandising and marketing strategies and anything else you would like to see covered by Furniture/Today.  Contact me directly at cengel@furnituretoday.com or 336-605-1129.

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