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Crossroads furniture industry sees growth

By ALLISON MILES
Oct. 3, 2011 at 5:03 a.m.

Kin Marie, of Cuero, finds a chair to his liking at Kamin Furniture. The furniture company in Victoria has seen business rise recently, just like many other furniture companies in the Crossroads. Texas is one of four states projected to surpass the national growth rate in furniture sales.

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For more information on national furniture sales trends, visit the National Home Furnishings Association website at nhfa.org.

Tony and Mike Mistry made their way through Bed Butlers Monday, meandering past pillow-top mattresses and child-size recliners, couches adorned with throw pillows and more.

The brotherly duo was on the lookout for a sofa to raffle off at an upcoming event, but it wasn't the first time they had visited the furniture store.

"About four months ago, I bought a bedroom set," Tony Mistry said, perched on a mattress. "I'm back."

Bed Butlers isn't the only furniture company seeing business in the Crossroads. Others say business is up, too.

Nationwide, furniture and bedding retail sales are expected to grow by 9.94 percent, to $90.7 billion, by 2015, according to a blog by Dana French on Furniture Today's website. At 15.7 percent projected growth, Texas is one of four states predicted to surpass the national growth.

Business is up at The Homestead, 202 E. Larkspur St., manager Chris Olsen said. All summer, sales doubled the store's best month ever, he said, although he did not give numbers.

Olsen attributed the increase to a couple of things.

Not only do the oil and gas and Caterpillar workers play their part, he said, but the store's rustic items are something that other area stores don't really carry.

Also, he said, customers seem to have taken note of the store's move. About two years ago, the store moved from its bright yellow Rio Grande Street location to its equally bright Larkspur locale.

"It took about two years or so for people to figure out where we were," he said.

Furniture Warehouse Direct has called Victoria home about five years, and first began operations by appointment only.

As the economy changed, however, so did its business practices.

The business moved to a more visible location at 2110 John Stockbauer Drive and set daily hours, said Christopher Stroop, a partner in the company.

"You adapt or die," he said, noting sales are up. "A year ago, with the situation in Victoria, I think everybody thought about closing."

Stroop said his updated plan seems to have paid off. Based on his former business model, the company was not supposed to make money starting a couple of months back, all the way through December.

"But we can't stop making money," he said.

Even so, he remains cautiously optimistic.

He's considered a second location, but said that's always a gamble. Also, although he expects the oil industry to continue benefiting the region for the next 10 years or so, consumers stop shopping any time President Barack Obama speaks on TV.

"I'm cautious about saying we're doing great because tomorrow we might not have another soul for a year," he said. "But, compared to a lot of places, we're doing a lot better."

Kamin Furniture also has seen an increase although company President Bentley Kamin didn't have specific numbers on hand. He said it's hard to tell whether the increase comes from the region's business activity, from customers who shopped at Lack's before its mid-January close or a mixture of both.

"We miss Lack's," he said. "We didn't like seeing them leave town."

He said he believed Victoria's variety of furniture stores serves the town well. Although they might sell the same general merchandise, each company has its own niche.

Kamin said he sees good things ahead, not only for the furniture industry, but for the automotive side, farm industrial side and more.

"I think everybody's kind of prospering right now," he said of Victoria. "It's good for everybody."

Back at Bed Butlers, at 4002 N. Navarro St., sales are up 50 percent more than what the store saw last year, manager Jessica Venegas said. It recently expanded into a new, larger building to meet with demand.

She did not give specific sales numbers, citing competition reasons.

Venegas attributed the increase to oil field activity and that associated with Caterpillar's incoming hydraulic excavator plant.

Like Kamin, Venegas said she felt Victoria's stores meet the city's needs and offer up friendly competition.

She said she looks forward to what the industry might see down the road.

"For us, business is great. It's never been better," Venegas said. "It's hard to say that for a lot of businesses in this type of economy."

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