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New owners, old favorite: When Randy and Odette Bowen of Waldorf bought Country Furniture from its original owner in 2007, it came with an established name and a long list of loyal customers who’d shopped at the store since it opened in 1980.
But now the Bowens find themselves in the odd position of trying to shed the store’s “country stigma” without losing the name and its three decades’ worth of branding.
Hoping to reach out to a younger generation of homeowners, the Bowens have begun stocking their 4,200-square-foot store with more contemporary and modern pieces of furniture, though the vast majority of the solid pine, oak, cherry and maple pieces still would fall under the “country” label.
Randy Bowen sais as much as 90 percent of the furniture he sells is made domestically. Most is made by Amish and Mennonite believers in Pennsylvania, but some also comes from the Carolinas and even California.
“Some of the pieces, particularly office furniture, it’s difficult to find an American manufacturer,” he said. “The dynamics of it all are changing a lot. The worry is, where will our industry, in terms of American-made products, be in 10 years?
Paying for quality: Walking through his showroom, Bowen pointed out the prices on his merchandise, noting that they’re a bit steeper than you’d find in a chain store.
“But you’re going to have this a lifetime, if you so choose,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition out there as far as furniture goes, but not a lot in terms of quality, American-made furniture.”
Still, that competition has had a leg up on the Bowens since the onset of the national recession. Their first year owning the store went fine, but when the economy tanked, Randy Bowen said, more consumers started shopping for furniture that would cost the least rather than last the longest.
“It’s tough to compete, especially in this economy. It’s a competitive market, and people have really throttled back,” he said. “People are looking harder and longer, taking their time, and being more cautious with their purchases.”
It has been the longtime customers that have helped keep Country Furniture afloat, Randy Bowen said.
“That’s one of the things that’s helped us through the recession, is we had a loyal customer base that we inherited,” he said.
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