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Miskelly brothers aim to provide true destination shopping experience

Mixing furniture with entertainment — furnitainment?

The South’s largest furniture store just got bigger — and a lot more fun.

On Memorial Day weekend, Miskelly Furniture unveiled a 43,000-square-foot expansion of its retail store in Pearl. It is the first of a three-phase 113,000-square-foot expansion and renovation project.

“We wanted to make Miskelly’s a true destination shopping experience,” said co-owner Chip Miskelly. “Entertainment and family fun has become synonymous with the shopping experience, and the more festive you make it, the more people will come out. Also, we wanted to have ‘category killers,’ to have so much selection that you’d never have to go to another furniture store to shop, where you could drive from 150 to 200 miles and not be disappointed.”

In Phase I, the new space is home to an old-fashioned country store, a children’s full-size carousel, Kid’s World Gallery and three unique showrooms.

The country store features Mississippi products, including food, arts and crafts and Christian books. Among the more popular items: gourmet coffee, fresh fruits, sodas, homemade fudge, stick candy and novelty items.

“It’s really great to see the consumer walk in, not expecting such a departure from the traditional furniture store concept,” said Miskelly.

An antique, hand-painted “Caring Carousel” is prominently featured in the children’s furniture department.

“We wanted to do something family-oriented that children liked, and at the same time, we wanted to give something back to the community,” said Miskelly. “It costs a dollar to ride it, and the money goes to area charities. It’s been a huge hit.”

The first phase also includes Miskelly’s Brand Interiors, featuring imported higher-end furniture at a nominal price, Urban Living, with contemporary furnishings for city dwellers, and Casual Living, featuring casual sofas.

“Because of the unique way everything is laid out, they’ve been very well received,” said Miskelly.

Phase II, which should be completed this fall, calls for an overhaul of Miskelly’s mattress department. The new Roman-themed showroom will feature waterfalls promoting a therapeutic setting and Sealy, Simmons and Temper-Pedic mattresses.

“It will center on educating consumers and salespeople about the wellness aspects of getting a good night’s sleep,” said Miskelly.

The second phase also includes a café featuring light fare, such as sandwiches and nachos, roasted coffee and fresh pies and cakes baked daily.

“Sometimes, people stay half a day and tell us they need to run out and grab a bite to eat,” said Miskelly. “Well, now they can eat under our roof, and the shopping experience is uninterrupted.”

Also rounding out Phase II’s 40,000-square-foot project: a 10,000-square-foot leather gallery.

“Leather has become so important in our industry that it now accounts for about 40% of our upholstery sales,” said Miskelly. “I think the trend took root when people began getting leather interiors in cars and began to appreciate the value, appeal and longevity of leather.”

The final phase, a 32,000-square-foot project that should be finished in early 2005, will include galleries highlighting Lane, La-Z-Boy and Broyhill furnishings, and a sports bar featuring a free throw basketball goal, several big-screen TVs and snacks such as hot dogs and popcorn.

“When men come in with their wives, instead of asking, ‘How long are you going to be?’ they can watch a big-screen TV,” said Miskelly. “Because all the guys usually bring is the checkbook anyway. This will help keep them entertained.”

When all three phases are completed, Miskelly’s will host a re-grand opening extravaganza, and special weekend events will be scheduled throughout the year.

“Before it came to fruition, we researched this expansion for six or seven years,” he said. “We toured furniture showrooms all over the country, and incorporated the best ideas into our store concept. We wanted to capture a bit of Disney.”

Nationally-known furniture store designer Connie Post of Hilton Head Island, S.C., handled the project design. Johnson Bailey Henderson McNeel was the architect firm; Moss Construction is the contractor.

“Connie is a really fun person and has a flair for how consumers, particularly women, like to see furniture displayed,” said Miskelly. “I’d recommend her to anyone in the industry.”

Miskelly is developing a weekend shuttle service with Bass Pro Shop. “We can send the men over there to shop, and bring the women here, because 95% of furniture purchases are made by women,” said Miskelly. “It’s going to help both businesses. Plus, they’re great to work with, very down-to-earth folks.”

The multi-million dollar capital improvement project will add 50 new jobs, bringing the company total to 350 employees. Miskelly projected the expansion and renovation will help boost annual sales by $15 million to $20 million.
Chip and Oscar Miskelly established Miskelly Furniture in a 10,000-square-foot building located on U.S. 80 East in Pearl just six months before the Easter Flood of 1979.

“Obviously, you never want to exploit a situation like that,” said Miskelly. “We were just getting started and saw the disaster as an opportunity to help people. We handed out leaflets to flood victims, and gave away mattresses. We sold out of our inventory. Many of our customers who started with us back then have stayed with us and referred others to us.”

The company maintains a fleet of 25 delivery trucks. “We used to sub out the delivery, but found it better to do it ourselves,” said Miskelly. “Delivery is the last part of the sale, and we supervise that very, very closely.” Miskelly’s also offers 10-minute guaranteed Express Pickup. Express Delivery is available on mattresses, sofas and recliners.
In 1998, Furniture Today ranked Miskelly Furniture in the Top 100 U.S. Furniture Stores, a group that accounted for 41% of total furniture sales for 1997, and Mississippi Home Furnishings Representatives Association named Miskelly’s Retail Dealer of the Year.

In 2001, Miskelly’s added 85,000 square feet to the distribution center and 25,000 square feet to its corporate office space.

“There are always volume deals in the furniture industry, and expanding the distribution center allowed us the space to take advantage of those deals and pass along better prices to our customers,” said Miskelly. “Also, we’re able to take in containers from overseas that others do not have the appropriate space for.”

In the last 20 years, approximately half a dozen furniture stores have located near Miskelly’s, boosting sales tax revenue for the city and county.

“Retail furniture has definitely impacted our area,” said Miskelly.

Even though the Miskelly brothers have discussed opening a store in a location outside metro Jackson, no decision has been made.

“We’ll wait and see,” said Miskelly.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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