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California-based Living Spaces opens hybrid store and warehouse in Humble

For its 30th store opening, California-based furniture store Living Spaces chose Humble, where CEO and founder Grover Geiselman planned a hybrid outlet and warehouse combination, the first of its foray into the market. of Houston.

Geiselman, a Houston native, earned his entrepreneurial skills from the city’s biggest retailer, Jime “Mattress Mack” McInvale.

He says he owes the furniture giant a lot for his success after learning the trade from him.

“I grew up here in Houston. I went to elementary, middle and high school here in Houston and then to college at the University of Texas,” he said.

After graduating he moved back to Houston and moved into a house he was renting with a friend and they needed a set of furniture.

“I went to Gallery Furniture and knew they delivered fast. I bought a bedroom set and literally stopped on the way back, and the truck was waiting for me when I got back It was great service, but since it was my first time buying furniture, I thought to myself, ‘This is how it should always be,’ he said in laughing.

A few years later, he found himself in the Bay Area of ​​California to attend business school at Stanford University and had a horrible experience buying furniture.

“In 2000, I emailed the Gallery team and told them they had to come to California!” he said.

A year and a half into his business school degree, he was tasked with writing a business plan as a project for his entrepreneurship class.

His first idea fell flat and was a disaster, then he thought of McInvale.

“I thought he seemed to have a different pattern and I’m going to drop by and ask him if he would allow us to study what he does,” Geiselman explained.

He found Mack at his usual post outside the store and he agreed to allow him to talk to his people and study what they were doing.

“The more we dug, the more we realized that Gallery was really doing something different. They have this huge footprint, they keep everything in stock, deliver immediately, have aggressive pricing, great service and they have really differentiated themselves in the market,” the young student thought.

It was the motivation he needed to return to California with his friend Sharm Sherman to try the business model for themselves.

Geiselman offered McInvale to allow him and his friend to work for Gallery.

“You don’t have to pay us,” he said. “We just want to study what you are doing. And we’ll give you an interest in our business when we open in California. He told us he would think about it and call him in a week,” Geiselman said as they waited for a response.

They had the same conversation with McInvale every week for four months.

“We graduated from business school, and I called Mack and told him I was packing up my suburbs and going to drive to Houston. We’re going to start working for him on Tuesday,” and Mattress Mack agreed.

Geiselman said there was no formal apprenticeship program.

“Basically he put us in a team, with people who mostly spoke Spanish, but that team would come in at 6:30 in the morning, unload the trucks until about noon. We took a shower, we went to the auction room, we sold furniture until about eight or nine o’clock in the evening. And then we would collect the keys from a delivery truck and do one last round of deliveries and finish around midnight,” he said, exhausted by the thought.

There was no knowledge of IT systems or marketing approach.

“It was strictly necessary to learn how to sell it, move it to the warehouse and deliver it. It was the best thing we could have done,” Geiselman said.

For four months they worked on the front line of Gallery, then moved to Rancho Cucamonga, California to pursue their dream.

“We found an old Costco building and put a showroom in the front and a warehouse in the back, trying to replicate Mack’s stocking model and offering immediate daytime delivery service. even,” he said.

They opened in August 2003 and immediately realized they were opening in the midst of the biggest real estate boom the country has ever seen.

“We weren’t good operators when we opened, but the strong demand hides a lot of mistakes. In two years, it was difficult to keep up with the pace of business there. We opened our second branch in May 2006,” he said.

Even during the Great Recession of 2008, they continued to open stores in San Diego, Phoenix, Bay Area, Vegas and Texas. Entrepreneurs now have 30 stores and several warehouses.

With so many locations they have, they have remained similar to the Gallery model, but this has become difficult with their Texas entry into the market.

“We build into our logic a two-week buffer for the extra time it takes to move goods through ports. In California and here in Texas we have our own transportation, our own cabins, container chassis, trailers, so we own our transportation and we can expedite it moving through our buildings,” he said. .

There are differences in whether Living Spaces develops company-exclusive products with factories in the United States and overseas.

One of the unique features is a design center with over 120 fabric options that allows customers to customize a variety of upholstered collections. They also feature unique items found around the world.

They have also cultivated partnerships with various celebrity designers Joanna Gaines and her Magnolia Home line, Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, and Drew and Jonathan Scott with their Scott Living brand.

Geiselman said he originally intended to avoid Houston out of love and respect for McInvale, only opening stores in Austin, San Antonio and Dallas.

“After we opened, truck rates from California to Texas literally skyrocketed. We started realizing that we had to start shipping a lot of containers through the Port of Houston. If we do that, we really need an industrial facility here. And if we put an industrial facility here, we really need a store,” he said.

He did not make this commitment without first approaching McInvale.

“I went to Mac with a hat in my hand and said, ‘You know, I never wanted to open here. I don’t want to step on your toes. But it would be very helpful if we could open an industrial facility in Houston and open stores in Houston,” he said. The two reached an agreement.

The Humble facility is a 695,000 square foot distribution center combined with an attached outlet that carries their full line of furniture.

They have additional stores planned in the market, including a Katy store under construction across from Bass Pro Shop, which they hope to open in September or October. Grover said there will be four full-size homes in the store: a Modern Farmhouse, a Modern Spanish Industrial Home, and a Purely Modern Home.

“We will also have a bar and cafe and a children’s area of ​​approximately 2,500 square feet with a cinema room and a giant play structure. You can check in your children, leave them in a supervised playroom while you shop, or you can stay there with them if you wish.

They are planning another store in Conroe late next year with similar amenities to Katy’s.

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