Couple beats the odds with furniture business
Like many Bay Area residents, Point Richmond’s Caroline and Josh Quick lost their jobs in the dot-com bust. Unlike many, the two bounced back quickly, investing their life’s savings of $50,000 in EQ3, a franchise furniture store.
Now, three years later, that San Francisco store is on track to make $4.5 million in revenue in 2006, and the couple held the grand opening Thursday for their second EQ3 store at the Bay Street complex in Emeryville, next to IKEA.
Caroline Quick, 28, and Josh Quick, 31, are succeeding against the odds. They launched their EQ3 franchise store in 2003. At the time, the Bay Area was still staggering from the effects of the 2001 dot-com bust.
Also, the $79 billion furniture industry was fighting a slump that continues, with 44 percent of all wood furniture coming from foreign imports, and huge national chain stores like Heilig-Meyers and Montgomery Ward biting the dust, according to Michael Pierce of the National Home Furnishings Association. (Ward’s now exists as an online and catalog-based retailer.)
Two factors helped the couple succeed: Josh Quick’s marketing background and Caroline Bellach Quick’s family legacy in furniture retailing.
“My grandparents sold furniture, and my parents were the first in the United States to create a furniture store solely for leather furniture (Bellach’s Leather Furniture),” said Caroline Quick. “My sister and I grew up in the store. I used to get yelled at for dragging around the ottomans.”
Now Caroline Quick has her own ottoman empire.
Meanwhile, her husband brings marketing skills to the coffee table. “I started at advertising agency McCann Erickson in 1998, and within four weeks was promoted to media buyer, then media planner, then supervisor,” he said.
After the 2001 dot-com collapse, he worked as vice president of marketing at a design firm, leaving to launch an EQ3 franchise.
EQ3′s parent company is Canadian-based household furniture manufacturer Palliser Furniture. EQ3 has hundreds of galleries and stores across North America, and is expanding to Asia, South America and Europe.
The Quicks came up with the idea of opening an EQ3 store after having a hard time finding affordable, attractive furniture for their new home after they married. Customer Mark Leet of San Francisco said he had the same problem.
“My wife and I had just gotten married, and were moving into a loft,” Leet said. “It was depressing going shopping. We wanted something more modern and hip and fun. San Francisco has modern furniture stores where you’ll pay $10,000 for a couch.”
EQ3 has contemporary sofas for as little as $549, with many fabric sofas priced under $700 and leather sofas and sectionals going up to the $3,000 range.
“I saw the bright red things, the affordable prices, and called my wife and said, ‘I’ve found everything on your list,’” Leet said. The couple have since purchased a bed, dresser, cabinets and, this month, supplies for their new baby at EQ3.
Such customers help show how the Quicks have succeeded in what Pierce calls “a tough, highly competitive marketplace.” They know how to appeal to twenty- and thirtysomethings while pitching to an older crowd as well.
The Quicks’ parties and art openings are one of their most effective strategies. They exhibit the works of local artists such as Ricki Mountain of Martinez. This draws in the artists’ friends, and gets the word out among the artsy crowd.
“We are looking for savvy people who are individualistic and passionate about design,” said Caroline Quick.
The Quicks say they chose the location next to IKEA on purpose.
“They will do all the marketing and draw the customers, and they’ll drive down the road and stop at my store,” Pierce said of the Quicks’ strategy. “IKEA may have a 300,000-square-foot operation, and you can’t compete one-on-one with that. But if you have a unique something you’re selling, the entertainment, the networking, that’s a tremendous approach.”
The Emeryville store has a dazzling view of the Golden Gate Bridge and offers furniture, bedding, lighting and accessories such as glasses and dinnerware. A snappy clear glass dining table bears a price tag of $229; red armless chairs are $99 each. A minimalist platform bed sans mattress sells for a mere $99, with an oak BOSSA nova platform bed going for $349.
“Their quality is in line with all the good companies,” said Joan Croft, a Pleasant Hill furniture consultant and member of the International Furnishings and Design Association. “It’s trendy, but not anything that’s going to be out of style in two weeks or a month or a year.”
Tags: advertising agency, America, Area, Arts, Asia, Design, Europe, Ford, Friends, Furniture, Furniture Consultant, Furniture Industry, furniture manufacturer, furniture retail, Furniture Store, Grand, IKEA, International Furnishings and Design Association, Leather Furniture, Location, National Home Furnishings Association, North America, Oman, online, Opening, Palliser Furniture, Pleasant Hill, Price, retail, Richmond, San Francisco, South, South America, Table, United States, Works