Petaluma’s Scandinavian Designs grows furniture chain nationwide via former toy stores, consumer demand for remote work decor
Modern European furniture chain Scandinavian Designs has expanded its number of locations by 30% in the past two years, thanks to an upswing in consumer demand for home décor and the repurposing of former big-box toy stores across the country.
Just before Memorial Day, the Petaluma-based retailer opened new locations in San Rafael, Salt Lake City and Takoma, Washington. This year, the company also has opened or is gearing up to launch stores in the Phoenix area (three locations), Salt Lake City region (a second site), Indianapolis, Missouri’s St. Louis area, and the Denver region (a third store). The time frame for the opening of a second Santa Rosa store, in a former Toys R Us store at 2835 Santa Rosa Ave., is still being determined.
These new sites, bringing the number of locations to 45 in 13 states, largely have come about thanks to 10 former Toys R Us stores the family-owned company picked up leases and deeds for after the 2017 bankruptcy of that chain, according to Cody Eide, who with his brother Kristan is part of the second generation of the firm’s leadership.
“It has allowed us to expand,” Eide said. Each store employs 10 to 12 associates.
The new San Rafael location, a former Toys R Us store at 600 Francisco Blvd. W., has around 35,000 square feet on one level with plenty of parking. That’s a welcome change from the 16,000-square-foot, multistory store at 1212 Fourth St., Eide said.
That was the first store founder Erling Eide, a Norwegian immigrant, opened in 1963 when he was getting his business of importing furniture from Scandinavian factories off the ground. That was followed by the opening of stores in the early 1980s in northwest Santa Rosa, San Mateo and Concord. The chain expanded to Southern California with an acquisition and then to the Seattle area, where it’s known as Dania Furniture to avoid a naming conflict.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the retailer was promoting remote office furniture to fuel the coworking trend popularized by shared-offices chains like WeWork. That was expected to pick up momentum with the shelter-at-home orders during the early part of the pandemic, but over the succeeding months that demand shifted to demand for home décor in general, according to Katherine Haliski, general manager for sales and customer experience. “How can my housemate and I work on the same table?” she asked.
And having furniture in stock has been a key selling point, something the company has developed through its factory-direct relationships over the past three decades, Cody Eide said.
Another trend emerging as the pandemic as evolved buying behavior is pet-friendly furniture, Haliski said.
“They’re definitely thinking about how the fabric will hold up to a pet. And will the sofa be deep enough for me and the pet and my family?” she said.
The Eide family had purchased a former gym building in downtown Santa Rosa but has since decided to shift its attention for a second location in the city to the Santa Rosa Avenue location, Eide said.
Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before the Business Journal, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. He has a degree from Walla Walla University. Reach him at email@example.com or 707-521-4256.