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From Home Furnishing Business

Publisher's Letter : Why a Magazine?

Let’s get that question behind us. Simply put, the mission of the Impact Consulting group of companies is to integrate information into the management process of furniture retailers and manufacturers in order to create high performance companies.

We have accomplished our mission through management consulting (Impact Consulting), market research (, performance groups (Impact Performance Groups), industry reports (Impact Reports), and now publishing (Home Furnishings Business). The acquisition of Home Furnishings Business will complete the spectrum of information delivery. The following graphic illustrates:

What is the Objective?
First, Home Furnishings Business will continue its commitment to journalistic integrity by publishing an unbiased perspective of what is happening in the industry.
What will change is the depth of our discussion. Our masthead has been changed slightly from “Strategy for the Furniture Retailer” to include all industry participants.

The fine line between manufacturer and retailer has increasingly blurred.
Next, using our proprietary industry databases and models, we will address the strategic issues facing the total industry. In order to frame the issues, we ask for participation from the industry—retailers, manufacturers, and suppliers. We will supply the research. Our mission is to initiate a true dialogue within the industry, and we invite you to be a part of this dialogue.

What is the Publisher’s Role?
A publisher’s role is not unlike that of a president of a company or a managing partner of a consulting firm.

In the case of a magazine, it encompasses the responsibility for all aspects of the periodical from creating content to transmitting the product via print or the Internet all within the parameters of generating a return on investment. Overlaying all of this is a commitment to pursuing a mission within the parameters of a code of ethics.

This is our pledge to our readers. We are confident that this commitment long term will be the foundation of our success.

As always, we ask for your input. Teaming our readers’ input with our industry knowledge and analysis will allow us to continue building a strong industry publication.

Do not hesitate to contact me with your comments. My e-mail address is

40 Under 40

A youthful slate of executives in furniture retail Make up the inaugural List.

The furniture retail business is often thought of as a more mature industry, and for the most part it is.
Sure, the youngsters among us in the market crowds, but often they’re hard to find.
Welcome to Home Furnishings Business’ 40 Under 40 list of retail movers and shakers who are making noise and leaving some fairly large footprints in some great retail operations.
The inaugural slate of nominees, chosen by their peers in furniture land, share a similar skill set built of leadership, determination, creativity, tenacity and great work ethic. Their youth fills them with great ideas of how to tackle industry-old problems, and those strategies are being implemented every day in retail operations across the landscape.
Kudos for their sticktoitiveness in convincing an older generation to adapt to a new toolbox for retail. That toolbox, after all, looks quite a bit different than the set available 40 years ago.
A few interesting tidbits as we were putting the final touches on the list.
Our 40 Under 40 varies from the third, fourth and even fifth generation players in the family business to those with an entrepreneurial spirit who saw a need and had the desire to create something new. They chose furniture retailing, and we should all embrace them.
The men outnumber women by 75 percent on the list. Maybe that’s because retail hours aren’t as family friendly as other work environments. It’s neither right nor wrong, just an observation.
Enjoy the list, enjoy the profiles and by all means, nominate someone next year. We all stay young when surrounded by smart, hard-working youth, and we can all learn from the youthful spirit they share with the industry.

Jim Navarra
Company: Jeromes Furniture
Position: Vice President
Jim is a third-generation retailer. He is been working in furniture his entire life. From sweeping floors as a kid, to running the marketing department, to now being vice president of the Jeromes Furniture. He represents the Jerome’s brand in word and deed both inside and outside the office. He received his undergrad from UCSB and his MBA from San Diego State. Jim has an amazing wife Stefanie and a 1-year-old son Henry. He has a dog named Penny who loves to go surfing with him early in the mornings. Jim represents the values the Jeromes Furniture brand is built upon. Upholding the integrity that goes along with that brand is key to both the business and the family name. His work ethic should be bottled and sold. Jim leads the way for everyone to be completely dedicated and engaged with his or her jobs. That type of passion is contagious and makes everyone around him better. In spite of his relative young age, Jim portrays an intuition about how to take care of the Jeromes customer and community that show wisdom beyond his years.

40 under 40

Mandy Jeffries
Company: Colfax Furniture
Position: Assistant General Manager
Mandy has her MBA and two undergraduate degrees in marketing and finance. Mandy has worked for Colfax Furniture for five years and has been a huge asset to the company. She brings a fresh perspective and morale to the company. She’s heavily active in all aspects of the company from merchandising, operations, sales, etc. Mandy has helped the company greatly reduce costs while bringing new ideas to increase sales. Mandy has also helped Colfax build a strong management team that will be a success going into the future.

40 under 40

Alex Macias
Company: Del Sol Furniture
Position: Vice President
Alex Macias, a graduate of Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, is managing the family-owned retailer Del Sol Furniture alongside his sister and his parents. The retailer was founded in 1997 in a small, 2000-square-foot space inside a Phoenix shopping center. Since those early, humble days, Del Sol has added two stores to the family and a warehouse to serve the Phoenix market. Macias has jumped into the furniture industry whole-heartedly. He serves as a director for the newly created North American Home Furnishings Association and is active in the Next Generation-Now, a professional network for younger folks in the furniture industry.

40 under 40

Taylor Atchison
Company: Atchison Home
Position: Vice President of Operations
Taylor represents Atchison Home as a third-generation success. After Taylor graduated from the University of Alabama he moved back to Mobile, Ala., to join the family furniture business. He immediately stepped into his management and marketing position with ease and made phenomenal changes to the manner in which the store approached these operational areas. Taylor’s creativity, personality, and years of experience as a buyer during furniture markets in High Point, Atlanta, Belgium and Spain are just a start for this rising star.

40 under 40

Reggie Watts
Company: High Point Furniture
Position: Co-owner
Reggie, a psychology graduate from the University of Alabama, is the primary case goods and upholstery buyer for High Point Furniture. He also is heavily involved in merchandising and advertising. Since joining the company in May of 2000, Reggie has performed every task associated with operating a furniture store. He is continually on the hunt for new ways to improve operating efficiencies

40 under 40

Matt Huber
Company: Belfort Furniture
Position: Vice President Merchandising
A graduate of Brown University, Matt began working on the sales floor in his early 20s. As vice president of merchandising, one of his key initiatives has been leading the consumer experience and e-commerce efforts on Belfort Furniture’s Web site. In addition to ensuring consumers have the best online experience possible, Matt works tirelessly to identify and develop private label merchandise to set the retailer apart in the Northern Virginia retail landscape. Other key roles Matt is active in include directing the retailer’s commitment to sustainable practices and incorporating those ideals into the company’s merchandising strategy all while tying together a refined on-trend direction for product direction.

40 under 40

John Wright
Company: HW Home
Position: Director of Visual Merchandising
John Wright is an great visual merchandiser and a very talented interior designer. With a background in theater and the arts, John attends High Point Furniture Market twice a year, with the owners, helping select product assortment for the stores. He also helps plan out all three showroom floor resets and is constantly changing the look with fresh incoming product. John also works on many of the larger commercial and residential projects both inside and outside of the U.S. He designs floor plans, makes furniture and art selections and then flies out for the installations. He is dependable, personable, dedicated, and a wonderful co-worker and friend.

40 under 40

Bo Coconis
Company: Coconis Furniture
Position: Casegood Buyer and Assistant Sales Manager
Bo grew up in the business working in the warehouse at an early age. Every summer and winter break from school, he would come help out and learn the business from the ground up. During his college career at at Ohio State University, Bo was captain of the golf team during the 2007-08 season, and went on to play professional golf for a few years following college. Upon returning from the links, came back to the store in 2010. Since that time, he has climbed the ladder from warehouse to floor display to assistant buyer to case goods buyer and assistant sales manager. As part of the Sales Manager group of more than a dozen sales managers from across the country, Bo participates in regular idea exchange meetings. He participates in four markets a year, the Furniture First symposium and the NHFA annual conference. As a member of Next Generation Now, he thrives on connecting with other passionate members of the furniture industry.

40 under 40

Nick Gates
Company: Gates Home Furnishings, Grants Pass, Ore.
Current Position: Sales Manager
Nick is the fourth generation in the family-owned business, Gates Home Furnishings. The store is a member of the North American Home Furnishings Association and Furniture 1st. He is also a board member for Next Generation Now, the industry’s professional networking group for the under-40 set. Nick strives to get the best out of his sales people and is working to bring new ways of using technology to sell furniture at Gates.

40 under 40

Kyle Johansen
Company: HOM Furniture, Coon Rapids, Minn.
Current position: Merchandise Manager
From a young age Kyle had an entrepreneurial spirit. He started his own business at the age of 8 by taking sports cards and putting them into framed art and selling them to parents and grand parents at craft shows (He “rented” part of his mother’s booth). Each frame was customized with the sports players requested by clients. He did this for several years until he was old enough to work on his own, and then Kyle traveled around the state doing shows with product he leased from his mother’s inventory. He also created her wholesale Web site, worked as a sales associate at her retail store and sold wholesale at trade shows around the country. In 2004 he held a summer internship at The Brick Group in Edmonton, Canada, as a purchasing and marketing intern. The following year, he was a summer intern at The Brick in its Shanghai China office working as a product sourcing manager for the retailer’s First Oceans division. Kyle joined HOM in 2003 in showroom support; the following year he was recognized as a top sales writer. Kyle’s level of responsibilities have continued to increase. His impact has been felt throughout the years in a number of key events for HOM. Kyle assisted in the acquisition of Gabberts and managed the acquisition in 2008 of Seasonal Concepts and the subsequent integration of the brand into all locations. In 2010, Kyle assisted in the creation of the retailer’s Dock86 Brand, which has taken off. As merchandise manager, Kyle helps set the product selection and feel of the HOM floors.

40 under 40

Laura Crowley
Company: Crowley Furniture
Position: General Manager
Laura Crowley stepped into work at the family-owned Crowley Furniture 10 years ago and is described as a “complete dynamo.” With her dedication, enthusiasm, and hard work the company was able to expand from one to three stores all during the recession that the furniture industry has experienced over the last five years. Laura is instrumental in helping keep every aspect of the store on track by focusing on the metrics for each area and working to make sure the retailer is performing at its peak level. Under her care, the retailer’s warehouse, sales team and the office work as a cohesive unit. The common goal—ensure profitability all while offering consumers a great shopping experience. Laura is also the best buyer the store has ever had. Not just because she picks out current trends, but because her astute listening skills when chatting with consumers gives her the needed insight to anticipate consumer needs.

40 under 40

Elana Stone
Company: BedMart NW
Position: Vice President of Marketing
Growing up in the family mattress business, Elana Stone first started as a mattress rack climber at the age of five. By 14, she was working in the BedMart office as corporate support and eventually became an asset to the sales team, earning a position as a top salesperson for the company. Elana attended Oregon State University and worked for a stint with an advertising agency and later held a post with a media-buying group. By working with local clients to create media exposure and marketing messages, Elana realized her passion was in business management. Her father recognized Elana’s strengths and asked her to come back to the family business to assist him. Bedmart opened nine locations that year. As Bedmart’s vice president of marketing and spokeswoman for the brand, Elana oversees all marketing activities, and focuses on action-oriented advertising, targeted to increase retail door swings and brand awareness within Oregon and Southwest Washington. She has developed key messaging, creative budgeting, and capitalized on market trends to help BedMart’s market share grow in the Pacific Northwest.

40 under 40

Sarah Phillips
Company: Weekends Only
Position: Lead Buyer
Sarah is lead buyer at Weekends Only and is responsible for the highly coveted, yet challenging categories of outdoor, fabric and leather sofas, sectionals and chairs. Armed with her business degree from St. Louis University, Sarah started her career on the manufacturing side of the industry, splitting three years between Lane and Alan White before joining the family business nine years ago. She spent two years in the stores learning from customers and employees that a great presentation can have a huge impact. Since then, Phillips has been a leader on the buying team that helped grow the business into one of the nation’s top 100 furniture companies. One of her favorite things to do is to get to know her peers in the industry to learn more about different perspectives to round out her knowledge and contribute to her buying acumen. She participates in advertising strategy meetings, making sure her categories are properly represented and that the company puts its best foot forward.

40 under 40

Darioush Yaraghi
Company: Safavieh Home Furnishings (10 retail)
Position: Vice President
A graduate of Boston College with a dual major in finance and marketing, Darioush graduated from New York Law school in with a concentration in real estate law. As a teenager, Darioush worked in Safavieh’s Westbury, Long Island, store during school breaks and on weekends. After law school he joined the company full time as regional manager of New Jersey and New York. He was subsequently promoted to vice president of Safavieh Home. Darioush has been a creative force in repositioning Safavieh Home Furnishings galleries on the local and national levels. Darioush created an e-commerce Web site that allows customers from across the country to purchase Safavieh’s retail assortment of rugs and furniture directly. Sales have doubled online every quarter since its launch in 2012. His entrepreneurial spirit is directly responsible for the retailer’s first line of couture furniture that ships across the country to customers of Safavieh’s online and brick-and-mortar stores. This continues to expand Safavieh’s reach nationwide. Darioush oversaw the redesign of the chain’s showrooms to provide a friendlier, fresher customer experience, opening the brand up to a younger demographic. He led installation of an inventory management/POS system to improve overall logistics. In addition to his business contributions, Darioush has been committed to using Safavieh’s resources to help local communities. During Hurricane Sandy, for example, he spearheaded a program to donate more than $50,000 of furniture to victims.

40 under 40

Michael Forwood Jr.
Company: Louis Shanks of Texas
Position: Store Manager of Austin
(Flagship store)
Michael joined Louis Shanks of Texas in September of 2008 after graduating from Baylor University and spending his summers training at the company. He has distinguished himself in the various management roles he has held through consistent sales growth achievement. Michael, at a young age, has earned the respect and loyalty of the staff he has managed by his own work ethic. Known as a fair, even-handed manager who has genuine concern for his people, Michael has set the tone for the store’s operations. Michael is also involved in the marketing and merchandising of the Louis Shanks organization.

40 under 40

Seth Weisblatt
Company: Sam’s Furniture & Appliances
Position: Vice President of Sales and Advertising
Seth is the third generation owner of Sam’s, started in 1946 by Seth’s grandfather, Sam Weisblatt . Seth is a certified Google AdWords professional and has used a powerful Web presence and a shift to online advertising to help bring the lease-to-own superstore into the digital age. Seth has worked with his dad and 93-year-old grandmother since 1993, and in 2012 the company opened its first new location in Dallas County, Texas. Seth brings a new level of excitement and direction to the business and the industry. By modernizing the marketing and advertising for an established company, Sam’s has seen marked growth and profitability. Seth also serves on the board of directors for the newly formed NAHFA organization.

40 under 40

Michael Faber
Company: Royal Furniture
Position: Owner
Michael joined his family’s Royal Furniture Co. in 2003 following a three-year stint with Credit Suisse in New York. The third-generation owner is keeping the retailer in check with his financial background. Founded in 1946 in downtown Memphis, Royal has nine stores, including three gallery stores, and reaches into six states. Under Michael’s leadership, Royal takes an active role in the community and follow sustainable habits in recycling. Additionally, the store invests time, finances and talent into a number of local organizations, including the Susan G. Komen foundation and local athletic programs and facilities.

40 under 40

Andy Jarski
Company: Mountain Comfort Furnishings & Design
Position: Owner/Consultant
At 28, Andy opened his first Mountain Comfort in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. In 2007, he added the Mountain Comfort in Truckee, Calif. A few years ago, the Mountain Comfort store was voted “Best Furniture” store in the area. Andy successfully sold the Coeur d’Alene store in 2012 and is now focused on two stores in Truckee and Frisco. His suppliers think highly of his business practices. Andy is viewed as an innovator and as a forward-thinking businessman who is a man of his word.

40 under 40

Lael Thompson
Company: Broyhill of Denver
Position: COO
Lael Thompson is currently chief operations officer of Broyhill Home Collections in Aurora, Colo. Formerly he helped manage Sonshine Furniture, started in 1983 by Lael’s parents as an unfinished furniture store. In 2004 Sonshine Furniture reinvented itself as a dedicated Broyhill store. Described as tenacious, Lael has served on the board of directors for the former Western Home Furnishings Association for 10 years. The industry has watched Lael grow up in the business learning various aspects of furniture retailing—service, merchandising, employee management, marketing and operations.

40 under 40

Noah Tepperman
Company: Tepperman’s Furniture
Position: Secretary, Treasurer
As a third-generation owner manager of Tepperman’s Furniture, Noah Tepperman works with his brother to run the 88-year-old retail operation. The foundation of the company is strong, and the generation is moving it forward with a well-planned strategy. Noah joined the company as director of customer care and now directs the company as its secretary and treasurer. As part of his duties, he’s beefed up the retailer’s social media presence and taken it to a whole new level. There’s Twitter, Facebook, a YouTube channel and a blog that features a myriad of things from trends to the retailer’s charitable and volunteer work. Giving back to the community and helping those in need are key elements of the retailer’s business plan. Noah is no stranger to participating and putting his stamp on good causes. He’s involved in a number of community organizations including The Windsor Regional Hospital’s Foundation Board of Directors, a local poverty reduction strategy board named Pathway 2 Potential, the Jewish National Fund of Windos and Kids Kicking Cancer Canada Board of Directors. He’s even taken part in a local Dancing with the Local Stars to help out the community. For real. Go to YouTube and search for it. It’s worth the look.

40 under 40

Boris Cybul
Company: Crown Furniture & Electronics and Estrella
Position: Owner and CEO
Boris Cybul dropped out of high school before graduating, to enter the business world. Boris started a pawn shop business, Estrella, at age 18, in 2001, selling wares out of his car. The immediate success of this business allowed Boris to open a home furnishings business, Crown Furniture & Electronics, specializing in in-house financing in his native Aruba. Estrella has grown to six locations while Crown now operates four retail stores and a modern distribution center. Further expansion, both in Aruba, as well as other islands, is being considered. Boris remains the sole owner and CEO of both businesses. Boris actively participates in many industry conferences and seminars and is a member of a home furnishings performance group. Boris opened the first Crown store in a rented building, selling appliances and electronics with one employee. A second store was opened, in 2005, to enable Crown to sell furniture. With more than 90 employees, including 35 salespersons and 12 collectors, Boris is planning a major expansion.

40 under 40

Jaime Wasser
Company: Wasser’s Exclusive Furniture & Interiors
Position: Vice President
While Jaime Wasser has only been involved in Wasser’s Exclusive Furniture & Interiors, her family business for the past few years, her impact has already been tremendous. Working previously in the fashion industry with Perry Ellis , she brought her experience home to Hallandale Beach, Fla., where she put it to use at Wasser’s Furniture. Jaime joined the family business in 2010, and has been traveling to furniture markets with her father and brother. In addition to leaving her stamp on product the store sells, Jaime is also making her presence known on social media, including a blog. In her spare time, Jaime volunteers her and the showroom for charitable events for such organizations like the Florida Israeli Defense Fund.

40 under 40

Jeff Selik
Company: Hillside Furniture
Position: President
Jeff Selik is like the Energizer bunny of the furniture industry. He has more energy and enthusiasm for furniture retail than most, and it’s contagious. Take the time and spend a bit of time with him; he’s fun, smart and eager to share his knowledge. Jeff grew up in the business at Hillside Furniture. After graduating from the University of Michigan, he went to work at the store as the merchandising assistant. From there, he learned the ins and outs of the operation by working in every department to understand how the business flowed. Today, he oversees all of Hillside’s operation, including buying, advertising and sales training. As an active member of the Contemporary Design Group, Jeff heads up the 33-member buying group’s innovation and technology committee.

40 under 40

Becca Blumkin Sudbeck
Company: Nebraska Furniture Mart
Position: Senior Bedding and Bedroom Buyer
Becca Blumkin Sudbeck started part time at Nebraska Furniture Mart in 1998, and since then she has held a number of positions — cashier, sales associate and a number of other posts before landing in her current post. Becca was part of the planning team to open the Nebraska Furniture Mart store in Kansas City, and then moved to the merchandising department in 2006. She’s been an accessories buyer and is now the senior bedding and bedroom buyer. Throughout her various positions in merchandising, Becca has delivered a fresh perspective to merchandising at the retailer—first in accessories and now in case goods and bedding. In both departments, Becca expanded into new profitable categories such as top of bed and seasonal items. She’s successful by bringing new ideas, strong leadership and developing sharp talented teams. When Becca rebuilt the accessory department with a new vendor structure, it resulted in a significant sales increase. With new marketing ideas in bedding, she has increased the percentage of the department’s business to overall store sales. She also successfully helped developed the first and only Tempur-pedic store within a store.

40 under 40

Josh Tatelman
Company: Jordan’s Furniture
Title: Vice President of Merchandising
Josh Tatelman is carrying on a lengthy family legacy at Taunton, Mass.-based Jordan’s Furniture. Josh is a member of the fourth-generation of the Jordan’s founding family. Currently, vice president of merchandising for the growing retailer, Josh has been with the company since 2000. He has a full plate and continues to add to his project list. Josh has created exit strategies in order to move aging inventory to reduce lost sales, created a Furniture Factory Outlet that offers consumers one-time buys and has optimized the use of sales data reporting at the retailer’s stores. Josh spearheaded the integration and partnership with non-furniture retailers, like Paul’s T.V. and Walpole Woodworkers, a fencing company, to give consumers easy access to all things related to home. His projects continue to add value both to the retailer’s bottom line and to the consumer making Jordan’s its go-to destination for home furnishings. Under Josh’s guidance and leadership, Jordan’s has streamlined the replacement of products to ensure optimal selection for the consumer by offering multiple styles and price points, which in turn has increased turn rates. The merchandise department has been restructured allowing for reduced staffing needs. The company’s fifth store—a 90,000-square-foot space in a Warwick, Mass., mall—was opened under his leadership. Josh’s hands-on approach in training started with the creating of a specialized training courses for all new hires. The courses ensure new employees have a solid foundation in upholstery and case goods product knowledge prior to selling in the showroom. Josh’s zest for Kaizen philosophy of to improve internal processes and keep prices lower for consumers led him to optimize domestic trucking, which reduced freight costs. Jordan’s is known as one of the industry’s most creative promoters frequently offering consumers the chance for free furniture depending on the success of the Boston Red Sox. Sales and merchandising promotions that Josh has created and made successful include the Power Play packages, City Scale created for smaller living spaces, 21 and 21 and the Choices Program. Looking ahead, Jordan’s will be moving into a new market with a planned store in New Haven, Conn., to open by 2015. Josh’s fingerprints will surely be seen in the Connecticut market.

40 under 40

David D’Ambrosio
Company: Redefined Home Boutique
Position: Owner/Founder
David D’Ambrosio took an old, run-down car mechanic’s garage in Atlanta and transformed it into a super-chic industrial-styled retail space. He did this just as the economy was tanking in 2008, and he has survived. He does this by carrying a variety of home goods in his store. He has products ranging in price from $10 to $10,000. David has a great eye for well-designed products, and he also mixes in carefully selected antiques into his product line. David is a master of display. He holds a bachelors of fine arts from American InterContinental University and has a long list of accolades in the design community. David knew he wanted to open a retail store that inspired its viewers. The original concept for the store stayed true to form with a vast mix of one-of-a-kinds, unique, well-made furniture and beautiful art. Once the location in Atlanta was discovered, the concept was off and running, and Redefined was born.

40 under 40

Ryan Blumkin
Company: Nebraska Furniture Mart
Position: Real Estate Development Manager
Ryan Blumkin’s background in commercial real estate is no doubt a treasured asset for Nebraska Furniture Mart. The retailer is on track to expand its base into the Dallas market with a superstore set to open in the spring of 2015. Ryan is the point person the retailer’s expansion into The Colony, Texas. Involved with the market and site selection and now the building of the 1.85 million-square-foot store, Ryan has rolled up his sleeves and is more than elbow-deep in the project. He is currently working with the city, builders, external and internal contacts to bring this project to completion. Nebraska Furniture Mart of Texas will be the first anchor of the 433-acre mixed-use development known as Grandscape. As part of building this entire project Ryan will also work to attract national tenants that are good neighbors for NFM.

40 under 40

Kyle De Young
Company: De Young Interiors
Position: Sales Manager
Kyle De Young wears a few hats at the 87-year-old De Young Interiors. As sales manager, the fourth-generation family member keeps a close eye on the sales team, but he also has a keen design instinct. A graduate of Savannah College of Art & Design, Kyle holds a degree in visual communications with a concentration in design. Kyle’s youth has helped bridge the generational gap with consumers, and the store is now seeing younger customers come through the door to shop. In addition to his sales management post, Kyle uses his design degree to help create product. He sits on Whittier Wood Furniture’s design committee, where he’s had some impact on final product design.

40 under 40

Anna Ruby
Company: J Banks Design
Position: Vice President of Creative
Anna has been with Hilton Head, S.C.-based J Banks Design for 13 years. She served as executive assistant to the president, Joni Vanderslice , where Vanderslice mentored her to understand and execute the overall brand vision for the company. Vanderslice also guided the development of Ruby’s creative talents as they worked together on a number of high-end luxury hospitality projects where Ruby served as a design assistant. As Ruby’s career progressed she was promoted to creative director, taking on the primary role of sales, marketing and public relations for the company. When J Banks opened a new building with a retail store included, Ruby was named vice president of creative, expanding her role at the company to include retail brand management and primary buyer. In her position, Anna is responsible for establishing and directing the entire sales and marketing strategy for the firm. Under Anna’s management, the retail store was awarded with the 2012 ARTS Award for Best Home Accents Store—East/Atlantic Region.

40 under 40

Jason Brager
Company: The Sofa Store
Position: General Manager
Jason Brager wrapped up business school at the University of Maryland in 2004 and walked into the furniture industry as the general manager of The Big Screen Store. The Big Screen Store is the last independently owned chair of retail electronics in the Virginia and Maryland region and it operates 14 locations in its market. After growing The Big Screen Store, Jason embarked on another task—overseeing the opening of the 50,000-square-foot custom furniture store dubbed The Sofa Store. Known for its extensive selection of upholstery from two select vendors, Jason, general manager, was instrumental in the design and layout of the Towson, Md., store, which opened last year. Jason also took the lead role in developing all components of operations ranging from the sales strategy and marketing to staff hiring.

40 under 40

Marissa Forwood Kashani
Company: Louis Shanks of Texas
Position: Buyer, Merchandise Director
Marissa began at Louis Shanks in a training role in June of 2009 and was quickly promoted to the position of merchandising director for the Louis Shanks Design Studio. In this position, she has distinguished herself posting large annual sales increases and having the Studio recognized as a state-of-the-art component of the largest high-end company in Texas. Marissa has now taken on marketing and merchandising for various components for the entire organization.

40 under 40

Will Daughtrey
Company: Badcock Home Furniture &more
Position: Category Manager, Youth and Adult Bedroom and Dining Room
As a fifth generation Badcock family member, Will has been involved in the Badcock business from the age of 14. He grew up knowing this was his family business, and he knew early he wanted to be a vital part of its growth. In between graduating from Clemson University and earning his M.B.A. from the University of Florida, Will worked for FKQ Advertising in Florida. After college, Will spent two years in a Badcock training program that encompassed all departments of the business. After completing the training program, Will spent a year in supply chain as a replenishment buyer. He found his true talent in the merchandising department as buyer/category manager for youth bedroom, occasional, home office, entertainment and rugs. Because of his successes, he spent one year as buyer/category manager for electronics and appliances, and now is in charge of adult and youth bedroom and dining room. During his first year as buyer/category manager of youth, Will saw huge increases as the youth category blossomed under his leadership. Will’s creativity in advertising, store layout and product selection, along with his leadership and price negotiation skills, led to unprecedented increases in sales and profits for the company.

40 under 40

Lenny Kharitonov
Company: Unlimited Furniture Group
Position: President and Co-Founder
In the furniture industry for 19 years, Lenny worked as a partner and -operator of Hillside Bedding’s Brooklyn location and as a managing partner for Citywide Furniture before co-founding Unlimited Furniture Group in 2004. Lenny co-founded the company with Thomas Corrales in 2004. He currently leads the management team, oversees all daily operations, and works with the sales team to expand the customer base.

40 under 40

Heather Hanley
Company: The Tin Roof
Position: Owner
Heather Hanley grabs opportunity and has a tendency to run full-speed with it. The owner of Spokane, Wash.-based Concept Home and sister store The Tin Roof opened Concept Home in 2008 to fill a void in the area’s contemporary home furnishings offerings. The Tin Roof was started by Heather’s parents; when she returned home from California, she took over the operation. Concept Home’s 5,000-square-foot mark is distinctly contemporary, while The Tin Roof speaks to the more traditional consumers in the market. Heather, jazzed by the opportunity of filling a contemporary gap in the Spokane market led to the creative of Concept Home. From there, Hanley located a downtown building perched among the city’s art galleries—the perfect spot for the hip, urban home furnishings style she wanted to bring to the city’s landscape.

40 under 40

Mark A . Mueller
Company: Mueller Furniture Co.
Position: Co-Owner/General Manager
Mark Mueller is a former collegiate and professional baseball player, and he takes much of the dedication needed to play the sport and incorporates it into the business of selling furniture. As the driving force behind The Sleep Sanctuary, Mueller Furniture’s mattress store within a store, Mark was instrumental in nearly tripling the retailer’s bedding sell in a year’s time. He has also developed the company’s Web site into a 24/7 lead generator, giving Mueller’s existing customers a more convenient shopping experience, increasing the frequency of store visits, and acquiring new customers from online searches. Mark also manages all of Mueller’s advertising campaigns and budgets, which has led to substantial sales increases and decreasing ad spending as a percentage of sales.

40 under 40

Travis Garrish
Company: Forma Furniture
Position: President
Travis Garrish and his wife Dee Ann Garrish saw the need for a retailer of contemporary and Scandinavian home furnishings when they moved to Fort Collins, Colo. A relative newcomer to the furniture business, Travis and Dee Ann hung out the shingle for Forma Furniture in 2004. Dee Ann’s family was involved in selling and importing Danish furniture back in the 1970s, so there is a bit of a connection. Travis’ merchandising strategy is pure and straight to the point—if he would not want a piece in his home, then it shouldn’t be in the on the showroom floor. Quality, great design and incredible customer service make up his mantra for furniture retailing.

40 under 40

Kenny Luthy
Company: Suburban Furniture & Mattress
Position: General Manager
Kenny is a young leader in the furniture business who exemplifies what is great about the industry. As general manager of Succasunna, N.J.-based Suburban Furniture & Mattress, Kenny is hardworking, passionate and dedicated to his business. Suburban is a family-owned retailer that has been operating in the Northern New Jersey area for more than 50 years. Kenny is a member of the Style Trend Buying Group and participates in a number of trade groups to share information among retailers around the country. Kenny’s staff is very seasoned with very little turnover, which is a testimony to his leadership.

40 under 40

From the Editor : The Joys of Youth

Welcome to our inaugural 40 Under 40 list of retail executives who are making a difference in our industry and their communities. The foundation for the list was created in part by our readers, who took the time to make thoughtful and enthusiastic nominations. 
The constant ping of my e-mail during the nomination period last month told me that we’d struck a nerve with our community in celebrating and spotlighting the bright young faces in furniture.
To those skeptics out there who continued with their snide comments about the furniture industry having no young people in it ... well, that’s just not so.
As the nomination deadline approached, we had more than 60 names on the list. That’s quite the slate to winnow down, and trust me, if 60 Under 40 carried the same sing-song word play, we would have been all over that!
Just so you’ll know — we had a number of young execs from the supply side of the furniture industry to be nominated. Those, however, will have to wait on the sidelines for a bit while we go about honoring RETAILERS.
As we were compiling the final slate, a few things jumped out at us that I think are worth mentioning.

The Generations
When you break down the list, more than half of the 40 Under 40 are working in their family business. Some are the fourth or even the fifth generation to follow in their forefathers’ footsteps. 
If those great-great grandparents could only see how their legacies are working now, they may be shocked to find the new tools being put to work in the business. Tools like social media, the Internet and retail technology that allows for easy sales tracking, payroll and other retail back-shop operations. I’m sure the generations before would be in complete wonder of it all. Can you imagine the great, greats with an iPhone? That would be a super picture to Tweet or post via Instagram!

Gender Roles
Men make up the bulk of the list with women holding 25 percent of the slots on our 40 Under 40 list.
I’m pretty certain the number isn’t skewed because of some huge conspiracy to prevent young women into the retail environment. Instead, I think it’s more likely the nature of the beast. Furniture retail requires long hours that often include nights and weekends and aren’t the most family friendly.

Future Leaders
Our slate is filled with strong, smart, creative, intuitive, savvy retailers who are shaping the future of our industry. They continue to push themselves, their peers and their co-workers to adapt to the ever-changing retail environment.
The furniture industry is much better off with them being part of it.
As President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
This under-40 set is definitely built for the future and is well on its way to shaping the industry for the next generation of leaders.
Enjoy the list.

A Big Tent

Jerome’s Furniture Looks to Expand Its Customer Reach While Keeping Firm Hold of Its Base.

A family company that looked outside the fold is making waves in Southern California’s furniture retail scene.

Jerome’s Furniture in San Diego had built a thriving business, and while the Navarra family behind the company remains firmly in place, some new blood has added some pop.

CEO Lee Goodman  joined the company six years ago, bringing in a fresh face with furniture retailing chops developed at Bob’s Discount Furniture to bear on a promotional institution in the San Diego area.

Jerome’s is expanding into the Los Angeles market and bringing new retail concepts to bear in its efforts.

“Jerome’s has been in business in Southern California for 59 years,” Goodman said. “We are family owned and have a genuine relationship with the community. San Diego has seen Jerry Navarra (our chairman) on TV for the last 40 years, and now his sons Mark and Jim Navarra have begun to show up in some branding ads. “People know us and trust us. We honor our relationship with them by not participating in phony promotions and gimmicks. We have every day low prices.  It’s a much more respectful approach to the furniture buying process and our industry. As we expand into the L.A. market, where people are not as familiar with our brand, it presents a wealth of opportunity.”
What makes Jerome’s different from other home furnishings retailers in the markets it serves?
“To sum it up, it’s our people,” Goodman said.  “We have built a team here that is nothing short of phenomenal. Nothing works without the right people, their ability to execute our strategies at the level they do is extraordinary.
“It all starts with the Navarre family. Their warmth and generosity, coupled with their trust has created a relationship that allowed us to make the kinds of decisions we have to make to be successful.”
Those changes included a reorganization of management, but the biggest was a move away from running promotions and sales to working with the “Jerry’s everyday low price” that Goodman mentioned above.
A combination of an established retail brand and avoidance of gimmicky sales paid dividends during the recession.
“It was hard on us, just like it was on the rest of the world,” Goodman said. “We focused on doing the right things and staying disciplined to our model. During tough times, the trust our brand created through the years is seen as a real plus.”

Jerome’s has stepped up the shopping experience in its stores. In-store signage allows is helping customer to engage with the brand in an informative, fresh way.  
“In-store signage is now more design- and creative-oriented,” Goodman said. “It’s all under the umbrella of improving the customer experience, and we do serve a wide range of customers.
“You can’t be all things to all people, but with our large selection, we’re able to approach a lot of them.”
Finding that “right” selection of product so the consumer can find what she’s looking for is easier said than done, Goodman said. 
“After that, it becomes all about value. We pack a lot of features into our product for the dollar,” he said.  “We have decades of relationships with vendors, where it makes sense we go direct, and we negotiate great prices on behalf of our customers.  We work diligently with our partners to ensure value.
 “Merchandising is dependent on what sells best in each individual market.  We do notice style preferences shift from market to market, so it’s constantly reviewed.”

Jerome’s also gives sales associates the tools they need, such as tablets, to create relationships with customers and ensure they are making the right decisions for their home. The store also shares numbers to keep associates on track.
“We get closing rates at not only the store level but at the individual salesperson level—and we find out where they lost the sale, based on questions sales managers are trained to ask,” Goodman said. “We create a dashboard for people so they gain understanding and a perspective of where they stand.”
Metrics “are a big part of who we are,” he added. “We use them to help guide us in finding issues in our company. What products are (customers) coming in for? What’s the impact of our advertising?
“It allows us to make changes based on real information. (For example) We’re a little light on bedding compared to where we want to be. We’ll look at the numbers to see where we should be changing our product offerings.”

How does Jerome’s express its retail vision in marketing and advertising efforts?
 “We run several different messages at one time—branding, services, product focused—whatever we feel is most important for us to communicate at the moment,” Goodman said.  “Our target customer covers such a wide range of the American public, we want to be relevant to what they are looking for.”
In addition to television, radio testimonial ads and the occasional print ad, the retailer is exploring digital more and more, and it publishes an upscale custom magazine twice a year.
 “As far as digital goes, we’re on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and,” Goodman said. “We are constantly revamping our Web site.  We’re learning like everyone else, but I know those aspects of our business are only going to continue to get more and more important.”
The aim is to build a big tent that serves as wide a base of consumers as possible.
“No matter how much people make or how much they want to spend, we’re going to have something for most of them in our model,” Goodman said. “We can send out different types of messages to different people without losing who we are. It’s not class-based. All those different ingredients, all those different prices, reach a lot of people.”
Moving forward, Goodman pointed to strategic partnerships with suppliers “and a little thing called the World Wide Web” as keys to future growth.
 “We look at e-commerce as a tool to, first, engage customers; and then drive them into our stores,” he said. “The Internet is our focus. We’re going to expand our customer base but not lose our existing customers.” HFB

Relaxation at its Best

What do you do to get away from it all?

If I have 10 days or more, I’m going to a seaside village in Northern Tuscany. If it’s less than a week, it’s the beach in Hawaii.

What do you get from what you do that recharge your batteries?

The first stage is taking the time to unwind. That can take to or three days. After that I can really dig into relaxation and disconnect my prejudice to always be honing in on a solution to something. When I do reconnect, I can really approach the tasks I deal with using a fresh approach.

I tell everyone on my team to always have a vacation planned. It gives you something to look forward to and helps you do your job better.

Lee Corson, chairman and CEO

Corson Furniture International

Pompano Beach, Fla.

What I do: For the last 65 years, my primary summer relaxation has consisted of “messing around in small boats.”  Having sailed and raced well over 100,000 miles to date on a variety of my own and other’s boats, I’ve found they all have different personalities and I’ve enjoyed everyone of them­—even the slow ones!

On a few occasions, Poseidon, The Mover of the Seas, has rebelled against some unknown transgression by me or one of my crew members, resulting in less than a desired smooth passage. Giving him the respect he deserves seems to mitigate the problem, and over the years he has generally been reasonable.


What I get: The experience of an offshore passage or the close competition of a around the buoy’s race is totally exhilarating and few experiences can compare. Those of us that have been captured by the lure of the sea share a very strong bond and will likely concur.

 (The photo is of one of Corson’s prior boats, all of which have been named “Jilly,” after his bride of 50 years.)

Debbie Suter, co-owner

Owen Suter’s Fine Furniture

Richmond, Va.

What I do: My husband, Owen Suter III, is a sixth generation furniture manufacturer. He loves to unwind and relax by shooting skeet and sporting clays.

What I get: He always says to me it doesn’t take as much time as golf. We have a beautiful outdoor shooting club, Conservation Park, in Charles City Va., that uses the profits from the shooting sports to fund quail preservation. So he relaxes, has fun with friends and helps the environment!

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