By Diane Kortus
LUTZ — Thanksgiving weekend is a time most families relax and kick off the holiday shopping season. But for Courtney and Lesley Stone, this past week was quite the opposite.
The couple and their 10 employees worked nonstop to move their used furniture store, Room Exchange, to a new location a mile down the road that adds 5,000 square feet to their growing business. The move coincides with the store’s third anniversary
After being closed for a week, Room Exchange re-opens Dec. 3 next to Lifestyle Fitness in Willow Bend Towne Centre, the retail hub of the Lutz-Land O’ Lakes corridor at SR 54 and Collier Parkway.
“It’s the busiest intersection in Pasco County,” said Courtney Stone, adding that he counts on walk-in traffic for much of his store’s sales.
Previously, the store was located at Village Lakes Shopping Center. With Wal-Mart, that center’s long-time tenant, moving last month to its new store on US 41, the Stones decided the time was right to also move their store to a larger location.
Their new store is 12,500 square feet and occupies space that formerly housed a Publix super market. The space is open with lots of windows and natural light, giving Room Exchange’s interior designer, Gena Griffin, much more space to create realistic room vignettes typically found only at new furniture stores.
Griffin’s lifestyle arrangements are so professionally done that it’s common for first-time customers to ask where the used furniture is located in the store, said co-owner Lesley Stone.
“That always makes us giggle,” said Stone. “Everything in our store is used, but people don’t always realize it because the furniture we carry is so nice and so nicely arranged.”
Customers can find furniture bands such as Ethan Allen, Thomasville, Lexington, Rooms to Go, Ashley and Haverty’s. They also carry some antiques.
The Stones price their furniture at 50 to 90 percent less than new furniture. Most consigned items selling in just 18 to 21 days.
After furniture is accepted for consignment, its price drops by 10 percent every 30 days. If it is still not sold after four months, the consignor can discount deeper, donate it to charity or pick it up from the store.
“But that rarely happens because just about everything we take in sells before then,” said Courtney Stone.
Many of Room Exchange’s customers — both consignors and people who buy the furniture — are repeat customers. “We have some folks who stop by three days a week to see what’s new,” said Lesley Stone.
Many consignors are those downsizing to smaller homes. Other furniture comes from model homes after builders sell or change out their models.
Room Exchange does not sell electronics and has no plans to do so.
“It is too difficult to control the quality and guarantee the reliability of televisions, stereo systems and other electronics,” said Courtney Stone.
The Stones, who have been married five years, live in a 1,450 square foot house in Meadow Pointe subdivision in Wesley Chapel. Do they take furniture home from the store?
“All the time. We love furniture and our little house is stuffed,” said Lesley. “We are constantly putting our furniture on consignment and buying new things.”
In the three years they’ve been in business, the Stones have seen a lot of stuff come and go. The most unusual items they’ve sold were a hot dog cart and covered wagon bed set.
It’s this variety that makes owning Room Exchange so enjoyable, said Courtney Stone. “It’s always changing and it keeps us hopping,” he said.
The Room Exchange is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The more information, call (813) 909-2411 or visit www.roomexchangeonline.com.