Pedersen’s Furniture will close its doors a year from now, marking the end of a downtown Santa Rosa business that sprang to life in the 19th century and over the decades reinvented itself into a retailer of high-end furnishings and interior design services.
The company, which four generations of family members have operated over the past 126 years, will cease business in March 2019, brothers and co-owners Ken and Paul Pedersen confirmed Monday.
The brothers decided to close Pedersen’s partly because they are nearing retirement, said Paul Pedersen, who began his career at the Fifth Street establishment in 1976. His brother had started there about five years earlier.
“Our ages as owners, as well as the ages and desires of many of our key managers and staff, have brought us to the decision to close the business,” the brothers wrote in a March 23 letter to customers, suppliers and others. “We are choosing to go out on our terms and our timing, rather than wait for a death, health event or financial stress to force a closing.”
The news was met Monday with both understanding and a bit of sadness by those with longtime ties to the city core.
“I don’t remember downtown without Pedersen’s,” said John Sawyer, a Santa Rosa councilman and former downtown business owner.
Sawyer, 63, the former owner of Sawyer’s newsstand, recalled going to Pedersen’s as a boy with his mother. The store was known for its longtime employees, and his family regularly worked with the same salesperson over the years.
Pedersen’s belongs to a trio of remaining downtown businesses that have passed the century mark. The others are Fourth Street retailers Corrick’s stationery and gifts, which began in 1915, and E.R. Sawyer Jewelers, which dates from 1879.
During Pedersen’s existence the downtown not only experienced the devastating 1906 earthquake but also an era of urban redevelopment a half-century ago, the redesign of Fourth Street in the 1980s and the reunification of Old Courthouse Square a year ago.
The Pedersen brothers were credited as longtime leaders among downtown retailers.
“They’ve been a major player in helping form the downtown,” said Corrick’s owner Keven Brown.
Brown recalled that when he returned to Santa Rosa to run his family’s business in 1992, Ken Pedersen was president of the Santa Rosa Downtown Association.
Brown said Pedersen proved generous in his time helping a young retailer learn the ropes of civic engagement and the Pedersen brothers remained supportive of downtown improvement throughout the years.
“We will sorely miss them,” Brown said. “We wish them well in retirement because I can understand they want to enjoy those years.”
The store’s 50,000- square-foot showroom and warehouse on Fifth Street was put up for sale a year ago by its four owners, the Pedersen brothers and two other family members.
At that time the brothers said they would consider if necessary relocating the store. However, by the time the building’s sale closed on Oct. 6, they had decided they would simply close the store.
“We’d made that decision before the fires happened,” Paul Pedersen said, referring to the devastating wildfires that ignited two days later on Oct. 8. The fires eventually claimed 24 lives and burned more than 5,200 homes in Sonoma County.