A sneak peek inside American Furniture Warehouse: furniture retailer focuses on community integration, waste reduction
Thursday, July 09, 2020
By: Claire Goodman - Houston Chronicle
American Furniture Warehouse, a furniture store featuring traditional, contemporary and modern design, will be opening its doors in August. The store, located at 500 Pin Oak Drive directly off I-10, features a 150,000-square-foot showroom and a 350,000-square-foot warehouse.
The furniture store will be bringing new jobs to the area, and city council members also believe its presence will draw in more businesses to the area, which will in turn generate important tax revenue. American Furniture Warehouse also has a strong commitment to waste reduction and recycling.
The store’s primary goal is to provide customers with furniture that fits their needs. Sales associates are evaluated not by the volume of sales they make but by how few sales result in returns.
“Selling someone the wrong product is a waste of time, and it costs a lot to return merchandise,” said Nolan Morrison, general manager of American Furniture Warehouse. “We’d rather get it right the first time to keep waste to a minimum.”
The furniture store is not a manufacturer, but because of American Furniture Warehouse’s mission of lowering costs while reducing waste, the store has a repair department in the building.
The store will employ skilled workers who can repair the furniture if it comes in damaged. After the repairs, Morrison said, the furniture will be even better than before. “If a table gets scratched on the top, we can actually take the finish off the top, repair that, re-stain it and put a brand new coat of lacquer on the top, and now it's actually better than the manufacturer,” Morrison explained.
The store also has an elaborate recycling and waste reduction program, which includes a state-of-the-art onsite recycling compactor. What little trash cannot be recycled is also compacted. It’s all done indoors, Morrison noted, to avoid having trash blow away. “There is still trash, but it’s all shredded and compacted so there’s very little landfill waste,” he said.
Even the exterior and landscaping is designed to be eco-friendly. When councilwoman Janet Corte first saw the plans for the exterior of the building, she was impressed with the schematics but hoped that American Furniture Warehouse would integrate more native plants into the design.
“The original plan called for five live oaks,” Corte said. “I asked if they could add a couple more. They came back with 12.”
By using native plants and xeriscaping, American Furniture Warehouse reduces water usage. “We learned that native plants naturally use less water than plants we bring in, so we’re using a lot of native trees and grasses,” Morrison said.
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The store received initial backlash from residents because of the vegetation that had to be cleared to build the structure, but councilman Chris Harris noted that the land was an open space, and the only vegetation on the property was invasive tree species.
“We worked with Keep Katy Beautiful to make sure the building wouldn’t destroy any native trees,” Harris said.
Corte praised American Furniture Warehouse for its commitment to working with the city to make the building as aesthetically pleasing and complementary to existing architecture as possible.
Notably, American Furniture Warehouse revamped its exterior design plan to match the exterior of City Hall.
“It’s important to bring in new businesses, but we also want to keep Katy’s identity,” said Corte. “By coordinating with City Hall, the store blends in with existing buildings.”
In addition to bringing new jobs to the area, city council members hope that more industry will come to Katy, bringing in tax revenue.
“Businesses like American Furniture Warehouse provide crucial diversification to the Katy economy, allowing us to weather downturns and even thrive at a time when other cities are cutting essential services,” said councilman Durran Dowdle.”
“AFW is now part of our economic diversity, who provides jobs and revenue for our city- a community partner that has invested in our overall economy, which in turn contributes to our economic health,” added councilman Frank Carroll.
Councilwoman Jenifer Stockdick agreed. “I have high hopes the store will bring jobs and revenue to the City of Katy, and I’m looking forward to their success and partnership,” she said.
American Furniture Warehouse is currently hiring. Jobs range from $14.75 per hour to more than $65,000 per year, Morrison said. The company offers a 401K program along with a benefits package that includes health, vision and dental insurance. American Furniture Warehouse also has an onsite gym and showers for employees.