Kansas furniture mall opens with big crowds
Clint Engel -- Furniture Today, September 2, 2013
TOPEKA, Kan. - Discovery Furniture drew thousands of consumers to the opening of its Furniture Mall of Kansas here this Labor Day weekend, as it moved into new categories with two new storefronts.
The 193,000-square-foot, two-level mall in the former Macy's in West Ridge Mall features the Topeka-based retailer's namesake Discovery Furniture midpriced, multiline store, RoomMakers (the retailer's dedicated Ashley store) and two Mattress Headquarters bedding specialty stores (on both the lower and upper levels of the mall).
New storefronts for the retailer are the upper-end Marling's and Abbey Flooring Headquarters, the latter bringing Discovery into the carpet, wood flooring, tile and other surfaces business. The retailer also carved out space for a clearance center, which will clear out goods from all the store brands, said Jeff Winter, co-owner of the family-owned business.
The store replaces two other Topeka locations for the retailer, one featuring Discovery and Mattress Headquarters and another with RoomMakers and Mattress Headquarters.
The Winters, who also own a three-store complex in Lawrence, Kan., and an Ashley Furniture HomeStore in Salina, Kan., declined to disclose sales projections or the company's investment in the new mall, its largest location to date.
Discovery hosted a pre-grand opening event Aug. 30, with $20 ticket donations benefiting the Topeka Rescue Mission, live entertainment and special guests, including designer and former HGTV and TLC networks celebrity Angelo Surmelis, whose Angelo:HOME home furnishings collection is featured in the Discovery showroom.
Jamie Winter, co-owner, said response to the event was amazing and that the retailer had more than 1,000 people come to show their support.
"Response over the weekend was fantastic," he added, noting that more than 5,000 consumers came through the doors through Monday.
Discovery was last listed in Furniture/Today's Beyond the Top 100 listing in 2012, based on a 2011 sales estimate between $15 million and $19.9 million.
Jeff Winter said he's often asked why the retailer uses various storefronts instead of including all goods in one superstore.
"The reason is because I don't want to be just a big store that's overwhelming to the customer," he said. "I want to have the big selection, but also have the smaller individual stores where people get personalized attention."
Winter noted each brand has its own sales specialists and managers taking care of consumers.
Designed by Martin Roberts Design, roughly 150,000 square feet of furniture mall space is split between the Discovery and RoomMakers showrooms. Among Discovery's key suppliers are Flexsteel, Southern Motion, Lane, England, Legacy, Magnussen Home and Best Home Furnishings.
In an unusual move, the retailer created two Mattress Headquarters stores in the mall, one for each level, and featuring a wide selection of bedding from key sources such as Serta, Sealy, Simmons and Tempur-Pedic. Also on display is Furniture First buying group's private label Mattress First bedding, produced by Serta.
Each of the bedding stores also features a Bedgear Shop that offers a full line of sleep accessories and a personalized fitting process.
The furniture mall includes Discovery's first Marling's showroom, featuring upper-middle to high-end lines such as Bernhardt, Thomasville, Universal's Paula Deen Home and Amish Impressions by Fusions Designs. Marling's shares both an exterior entrance and mall entrance on the first floor with Discovery.
Winter said that Marling's was a well-known upscale furniture retailer in the Topeka market for some 75 years and that the owner decided to retire and close late last year. The Winter family purchased the rights to the name for an undisclosed price.
Among the special touches in the mall is a large interactive aquarium in Mattress Headquarters that allows consumers to feed "virtual fish." A tented play area provides toys for children. Other features include a display of multi-height and style stools; 14-piece professionally designed and interchangeable room packages; and a Kansas Connection area that features items from Kansas upholstery producer LaCrosse Furniture.
"To convert a former Macy's into a modern and multilayered furniture and home furnishings mall, while maintaining a reasonable budget, was a tough design challenge," Martin Roberts said.
"But the experience resulted in successfully creating a customer destination that is truly worthwhile."
West Ridge Mall is at the intersection of 21st Street and Wanamaker Road and in addition to the new furniture mall, is home to Dillard's, JCPenney, Sears, Bath and Body Works, Victoria's Secret and other retailers.