PFP named to handle prestigious “Leo Burke Furniture” Closing Event
Reprinted from the Richmond-Times-Dispatch, Richmond, VA
Leo Burke Furniture store closing after 54 years
Jack Burke has taken lots of risks over the years with his family-owned furniture store business.
Now, he’s taking the biggest gamble ever: shutting down the Leo Burke Furniture store in Carytown that his father started in 1958 with a bankruptcy furniture sale.
“It just makes more sense to go out now while we are on top rather than keep pressing on,” Burke said Wednesday.
“There was no big epiphany. We have run a good business for 54 years,” said Burke, the company’s president. “This is a business decision like any other we would have to make. We are always looking at the trends and decided that it made sense to do it now.”
Leo Burke Furniture, which has operated a single location at 3108 W. Cary St., will close this summer. A bankruptcy furniture sale of its entire inventory, including rugs, has begun.
Burke blamed the slowing economy and changing consumer habits as reasons for closing the store.
“I hate to see it, but we have seen a lot of our premier furniture stores close up nationally,” said Wallace E. Epperson Jr., a longtime furniture-industry analyst with Richmond-based Mann, Armistead & Epperson Ltd.
Jack Burke of Leo Burke Furniture assisting a consumer in the store
High-end furniture retailers have suffered in recent years as manufacturers have closed or greatly reduced their offerings, Epperson said.
Most industry analysts would not have expected high-end furniture retailers and manufacturers to be hard hit during the recession, Epperson said, because their core customers — more affluent shoppers — are spending money and are not credit risky.
But those shoppers also are buying better-looking yet cheaper-priced imports that have flooded the market, he said.
“The imports look so good. If you want a leather sofa you can buy one for $2,000 that looks like a $6,000 one,” Epperson said. “As a consumer, it is just difficult to pay that kind of multiple price. As a retailer, how do you compete with that?”
Burke said many of his store’s vendors have gone out of business. “These were ones that were important to us, lines that our customers had became accustomed to buying from us,” Burke said.
In 2007, Burke reduced the size of the store to about 9,000 square feet from 19,000 square feet. That took the store’s size back to what it had been in 1992 when a fire damaged it.
While reducing the store size, Burke said the sales per square foot remained about the same as before.
The company is private and does not release financial figures. Burke declined to provide any guidance of how the store has performed in recent years.
Leo Burke Furniture’s closing comes as another longtime Carytown retailer also is closing. Pirouzan Oriental Rugs is shutting down after 27 years, citing changing consumer tastes coupled with the downturn in the economy.
The announcement of Leo Burke Furniture’s closing, and it’s impending bankruptcy furniture sale — a notice was sent to some longtime customers in the past week — has given Burke time to reminisce about the store with shoppers who have come in and told him what they bought over the years.
“I think this is all happy emotions,” Burke said.
The closing is not a time to shed tears, but a period to celebrate, he said.
“We have had a great business and a great run and I’ve been doing this for 33 years,” Burke said. “I think it is time for celebration. I am excited about it. I see this as a celebration than any other emotion.”