Smart Furniture’s new showroom on Chattanooga’s North Shore is not your typical furniture store.
Then again, Smart Furniture is not your typical furniture company.
“The store and the products are entirely unique,” said Stephen Culp, the company’s founder and chairman. “There are things here you can’t find for 100 miles and some things that are not available anywhere else.”
Smart Furniture, which is primarily made up of modern design pieces, markets its own furniture line as well as selections from Herman Miller and Blu Dot.
Staff Photo by Gillian Bolsover Smart Furniture founder Stephen Culp sits in the store Wednesday. The store recently moved to Two North Shore and will celebrate its grand opening on December 6.
Company officials said that what makes its concept fresh is the ability for shoppers to customize their purchases and visualize what the pieces will look like in their home through a “design on demand” feature on its Web site, www.smartfurniture.com.
The idea for Smart Furniture’s “design-on-demand” concept was hatched while Mr. Culp was in law school about 10 years ago. He launched Smart Furniture here in 2001 as primarily a Web-based and catalog business.
The company’s new studio at Two North Shore on Manufacturers Road and its Internet presence combine to create a unique experience, he said.
“It allows us to take ideas from our Web presence and put them in a real world application,” Mr. Culp said.
The business has about 30 employees.
T.J. Gentle, Smart Furniture’s president and chief executive, said the Internet allows shoppers to customize furniture pieces to fit their exact needs, yet the showroom gives them the opportunity to see and test the pieces they may wish to buy as well as get design advice from a professional.
“Almost no one will buy a couch without sitting on it,” Mr. Gentle said. “And our sales team will help them go step-by-step to design their own chair.”
can idea be replicated?
Officials claim the studio’s new home is a perfect fit for the company which also promotes local art and artists — a fact highlighted by the many paintings hanging on the studio walls.
Smart Furniture opened the doors to its new showroom on Nov. 1 after the move from Market Street, and it will host a grand opening celebration Dec. 6 with music, refreshments and giveaways. The Chattanooga-based company’s headquarters will remain on Market.
There could be more showrooms in the years to come.
“This will be the first real experiment at a concept that we may roll out nationwide in the future,” Mr. Culp said.
Mr. Gentle those decisions will not be made lightly.
“We will test this out for at least a year and watch the market carefully,” he said.
Officials declined to release revenue figures, but Mr. Gentle said sales have doubled over previous years.