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Furniture stores closing, moving in local market

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Need some furniture? Better double check the name and address of your favorite furniture store. A couple of stores are moving, one store is closing and another has closed in Springfield.

Mulhollan's furniture will close its store to make way for a new furniture tenant, Haverty's, in Mulhollan's space on Eastgate just off of Highway 65 at the Division exit. Mulhollan's was founded by Paige Mulhollan in 1956, said Scott Kelley, now owner of the furniture store.

The store's first location, in downtown Springfield, was leased to Paige Mulhollan in that year, and two weeks after opening the store, Mulhollan died. The task then fell to John Kelley, Scott's father, to keep the new retail store alive.

At one time, there were three stores, one in Fort Smith, Ark., one in Tulsa, Okla., and the Springfield store. The other two stores closed, and John Kelley eventually bought the Springfield store. The downtown building is one of two warehouse locations Mulhollan's still maintains downtown. Those properties, along with the Highway 65 store, will remain in the possession of the Mulhollan company. Haverty's will lease the superstore, Kelley said.

Kelley is not sure what the applications of the downtown properties might be.

John Kelley retired from the business in 1985, and Scott Kelley has been at the helm since, assisted by his

wife Marcia. Kelley is now getting set to pursue some of his lifelong dreams, he said. He hopes to become a special-education teacher and further his involvement in Tae Kwan Do. A self-described "old hippie," Kelley said it is time for him to explore a new route. Marcia Kelley will pursue a career as a teacher's aide.

The Mulhollan's superstore has, as the downtown store before it did, a red door. The red door has become a mark of recognition for the business, but came about because the door needed to be painted on the old store.

"Money was tight in those days, and they had a can of red paint in the back, so they used that on the door. It became part of the store's advertising, and when we built this store in 1991, we naturally built it with red doors, too," Kelley said.

A 41-year-old furniture retailer closed its store in Springfield in December 1997. Mountain Home, Ark.-based Sheid's closed three stores in 1997, one in Springfield, one in Branson, and one in Batesville, Ark., said Richard Sheid, vice president. Sheid's parents have owned the furniture store in Mountain Home, Ark., for 41 years.

The Sheids continue to do business in the Springfield area, delivering furniture from the Mountain Home store to Springfield, and they continue to own the shopping center the store once occupied. The space left by the store has yet to be filled, Sheid said

"We still have a lot of loyal customers in that area, but it became more economically feasible for us to close the store and rent out the space. We could make more money doing that," Sheid said.

Competing with the large chains has become difficult for small, independent retailers, Sheid said.

"What you see happening in the restaurant business in Springfield, you see happening in the furniture business now. The large chains have a lot more buying power and can simply sell stock to raise money for their business. That puts the independent retailer at a disadvantage," Sheid said.

Sheid said he knew Haverty's was entering the market, and the addition of that retailer, plus the Furniture Row Center next to Mulhollan's, made the Springfield market a less attractive one for a family-owned furniture business.

Sheid's opened the first in-store gallery in Arkansas in 1978, and "that put us on the cutting edge," in the business, Sheid said. The store was dominant in the Arkansas market for about 10 years, he added.

Now, the best hope for an independent is to become part of a large buying group; Sheid's is a member of Memphis, Tenn.-based Best Brands.

"There just aren't many advantages for a small retailer. It's very difficult to compete," Sheid said.

Sheid's mother, Vada Sheid, was the first woman elected to both the Arkansas House of Representatives and, later, the state Senate, he said.

The second-oldest corporatively-owned Ethan Allen in the country,Springfield's store, will move to the former Century 21 Theater in the Battlefield Mall, said store manager Laura Martin.

Ethan Allen has been in Springfield 28 years and is a corporately-owned store, Martin said, as opposed to a dealer-owned store. The store will move into a temporary location in the former Golden Lion restaurant in the mall before taking over the Century 21.

The movie theater will have to be extensively remodeled, and Ethan Allen is working with the mall on the renovations. Mall General Manager Karen Geary said the renovation of a store site is often done cooperatively by the mall and the retailer.

Ethan Allen currently occupies 17,000 square feet at its 2510 S. Campbell Ave. location. The temporary location is 6,700 square feet and the former theater is 12,500 square feet total, Geary said. Ethan Allen will have the same amount of showroom space, because the on-site warehouse that was inside its Campbell location has moved to Chestnut Expressway, Martin said.

Geary said mall officials did not expect the theater to remain a movie theater because "the market has pretty well established the number of outlets needed in Springfield." The space has been vacant for nearly a year. It will get a "whole new exterior," Geary said, and may get an entrance directly into the mall, although the renovation plans are not complete.

Downtown is getting a new furniture retailer, also. Doc Renegade's Futon Shoppe is moving to 400 South Ave., the space formerly occupied by Dream Catcher, said Randall Tye, owner of the shop. The futon retailer has been in Springfield since 1992 and this is its third location, Tye said. The shop was last at 3065 S. Fremont Ave.

Doc Renegade's plans to open downtown March 30.

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