How do you buy furniture for a retail store?
December 26, 2009 11:39 AM   Subscribe

I need to find places to buy cool/offbeat furniture, but with the durability and dimensions/styles needed for a retail store.

I've recently taken ownership of a retail store, and among the many things I'd like to do to rebrand and "re-image" it is replace the boring, standard-issue furniture used in the customer-facing portion of the store. I'd like to replace the display tables, get shelving so that I'm more effectively using the wall space, etc.

But in particular, I'm interested in furniture made from reused/repurposed materials and/or used furnishings that come from other retail stores that have either closed or replaced their furnishings. There HAVE to be places where you can find this stuff, but Google is failing me. I realize that to an extent, I can also get stuff from "consumer" furniture stores, but that isn't always going to address the needs of a retail space very well.

I'd be kind of interested in taking some cues from the Apple store (big, long tables, with shelving along the sides), but without duplicating them outright. (Plus, I'm sure I couldn't dream of affording the kind of furniture they use.) I don't want the place to look as cold and sterile as Apple stores do; dark-colored natural woods/metal/stone made from repurposed old construction/building/carpentry materials, for example, would be one direction I'd be interested in going.

Location is Richmond, VA, although I live in Baltimore, so I can also shop around in the Baltimore/DC area. The product line is computers and accessories, so it would be mostly tables and shelving that I'd need --nothing explicitly "retail-only" like clothing racks, etc.
posted by CommonSense to Shopping (4 answers total)
What kind of a store is this? That has a lot to do with the kinds of things you could use. One of my favorite yarn stores has a lot of great old display cabinets, from armoires and old store fixtures to a giant antique mill wheel, but displaying and selling yarn (soft, squishable into a space) is very different from selling something breakable, or something where you need room around each piece for whatever reason.

The clientele of a store probably has something to do with it, too. If you're trying to sell jeans that are constantly being taken out, tried on, refolded and put back (roughly or not) by younger people who don't really care about it, that's different than having middle-aged women contemplate the color of yarn they want and then gently take it out. And then there's the fact that the furniture in the back is meant for hanging out, not just sitting and waiting for a few minutes.
posted by Madamina at 11:47 AM on December 26, 2009

The Home Anthology in Cantonville, MD is local and awesome, but is more "home" oriented.

But! A friend of mine has a shop in Brooklyn that actually does carry a decent assortment of "fixture" type things that would most likely be good for retail (half of Brooklyn's restauranteurs/retailers have bought from them), such as awesome vintage filing cabinets and lighting. Their prices are good and they have fantastic shipping.

Good luck!
posted by functionequalsform at 12:28 PM on December 26, 2009

VCU in Richmond has an art school which includes an Interior Design Dept. Students are usually pretty resourceful about doing things with limited budgets, and they'll be familiar with local resources. You might consider hiring one.

Finding somebody, though, could be tricky. (I'd be kind of dubious about just taking out an ad and expecting good results.) If you want to do this, or are interested, you might try contacting the school first - explain what you're trying to do and ask for advice on how to proceed.
posted by nangar at 1:26 PM on December 26, 2009

Craigslist often has listings of closed stores trying to quickly get rid of their furniture, and you could probably find lots of unique pieces on there that would work for your needs as well.
posted by lhall at 1:25 PM on January 21, 2010

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