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HFA Reports: Retail survival story

Furniture World Magazine


Ronne Kurlancheek, owner of the Home Furnishings Association member business

Resilience keeps 114 year old Kurlancheek Home Furnishings in business.

How does a furniture store stay in business for nearly 114 years? Resilience.

Kurlancheek Home Furnishings in the Wilkes-Barre, PA, area met one challenge when a Raymour & Flanigan store arrived to offer the same promotional and lower-end furniture on a larger scale.

Quality Upgrade to Compete

Ronne Kurlancheek, owner of the Home Furnishings Association member business, decided she wouldn’t compete against the Top 100 juggernaut. Instead, she upgraded the quality of furniture she sold so that shoppers could see a difference. Then she hired several designers and offered free house calls to plan and design customers’ living spaces. She loaded the walls of her store with fabric swatches and crafted an identity as the area’s go-to source for special orders.

The move was a gamble that Kurlancheek could only hope would succeed. It did, and business increased.

“I’m not afraid of trying anything anymore,” she said. “If you’re an independent furniture retailer these days, there’s only one way to survive and grow, and that’s to take risks. You can’t decide to go into business for yourself, which is the biggest risk of all, and then decide you’re not going to take any more risks. Well, maybe you can, but you won’t last long.”

Tornado Destruction

The next challenge was much more dramatic. On the night of June 13, 2018, a tornado ripped through portions of Wilkes-Barre Township, destroying her store.

“We were like ground zero,” Kurlancheek recalled.

Losing her store and inventory was a tough blow, but within weeks, she moved operations into a vacant warehouse with a loading dock and began filling orders. She set up a small showroom, serving customers by appointment.

On June 13, the anniversary of the tornado, Kurlancheek held a reopening celebration in a repurposed automobile factory.

The old industrial building has been divided into small business spaces. It’s occupied by a floral shop, delicatessen, hair stylist, fitness center and more. Her store has 6,000 square feet, plenty to display her special chandeliers, artwork, fabrics and home furnishings.

“The area has a funky atmosphere,” she said. “The potential for foot traffic is good.”

The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting for one of its oldest members.
“The Chamber really likes us,” Kurlancheek said. “We’re like the little engine that could.”
That’s resilience.

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A  feature about Home Furnishings Association's retail members, legislation affecting the furniture industry and other retail news from HFA.