Mike Daggett, pictured above, and his son, Shaun, are set to open Northwest Furniture and Mattress in the building where Furniture West did business. (BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH photo)
Furniture West, an anchor business in downtown La Grande since 1989, did shut down last November. Here’s the rest of the story: the giant red rocker is staying right where it is.
In the building at 215 Elm St. previously occupied by Furniture West, the father-and-son team of Mike and Shaun Daggett are opening Northwest Furniture and Mattress, a full-line furniture store that will closely resemble its predecessor.
The huge and iconic red rocking chair on the roof of the building came with the lease. The Daggetts like it for what it’s always been, a beacon for those in the market for furniture.
“Gene didn’t take it with him when he left, and he asked us if we wanted it. We said, ‘Yes, we definitely do,’” Mike Daggett said.
Mike Daggett is no stranger to the furniture business, and in fact is no stranger to 215 Elm. Between 1984 and last November, he worked as a salesman and store manager for Furniture West owner Gene Demeerleer.
Daggett spent most of that time in La Grande, though there was a five-year stretch when he managed a Demeerleer store in Hermiston.
“We closed it in 2007. We saw where the economy was going and we pulled in our horns,” Daggett said.
Daggett returned to the La Grande Furniture West and worked there until last November, when Demeerleer decided to shut it so he could focus on the family business in Moscow, Idaho. Demeerleer owns another store, Furniture Center, in that city.
Daggett said a deal to replace Furniture West with his own company had been in the works for some time, but was put on the back burner as he and the rest of the Furniture West crew looked after myriad going-out-of-business details.
He said he and his son carefully crunched numbers to determine whether the new company could survive. Despite some lingering bad memories of the 2008 recession, the financials were more than encouraging, he said.
“We really looked at what the store had done, and we know that from 2009 it climbed steadily out of the poor economy. We knew nothing was broken here,” he said.
Recently, the Daggetts got the green light for financing their operation, and now they’re working hard to put the new enterprise on its feet. The store is stripped bare at present, with the new owners engaged in some cosmetic remodeling, painting and adding a couple of walls.
“We’re going to change some colors, touch things up and make it look good for our customers,” Daggett said. He said he is already ordering inventory, and expects to be open in March.
In its heyday, Furniture West employed between five to seven people full time, though the work force was reduced during the recession. Daggett said that for starters, he and his son plan to employ a couple of full-time delivery workers, plus a bookkeeper.
“Sales will dictate where we go from there,” he said.
Like Furniture West, Northwest Furniture and Mattress will be a full-line store, dealing in all types of furniture save electronics and appliances.
Daggett said there will be a stronger emphasis on the mattress side of the business.
“We’ll have expanded youth and adults bedroom offerings,” he said, adding that he and his son will carry furniture to suit most budgets.
“We’ll have products made in the USA, and price-sensitive furniture for young people who are just starting out and might not be able to afford higher-priced stuff,” he said.
Daggett said he and his son are happy with their decision, and look forward to success.
“We saw this as an opportunity to have our own furniture store and build it into the success that Furniture West was,” he said.
Shaun Daggett also is a Furniture West alumnus, having worked in sales for Demeerleer since 2002. Shaun’s background in the trade will come in handy, the father said.
“He’s experienced and instrumental in how we set the floor,” he said.
Mike Daggett lives in Island City, while Shaun resides in La Grande. Both father and son are long-time members of the La Grande Optimist Club, a civic group involved in a host of youth projects.