This is the business equivalent of having to eat your vegetables before you can enjoy dessert.
For Lancaster-based Interiors Home, the necessary task was completing a process to relocate and enlarge its warehouse capacity last month. Now it’s looking forward to the pleasure of opening stores in the York and/or Wyomissing-Reading areas starting in late 2022.
“We had to get the infrastructure in place before we can expand our retail,” said Todd Lehman, president and CEO.
Exactly how the expansion plays out has yet to be determined, Lehman said Wednesday, as the site search continues. “It’ll be one or the other (location) initially but perhaps both as time goes forward,” he said.
The new store(s) will be about 40,000 square feet and staffed with about 25 employees, he said, comparable to its Camp Hill location that opened in 2015, absorbing a smaller Harrisburg store that had debuted six years earlier.
For comparison, the new store(s) will be about two-thirds of the size of Interiors Home’s main showroom and display area of 60,000 square feet at 3130 Columbia Ave., near Centerville Road. The retailer of furniture, mattresses, accessories and rugs also has its 10,000-square-foot corporate office there.
York is attractive to Interiors Home because it’s a growing market with good demographics that’s already covered by the retailer’s television commercials aimed at consumers in Lancaster County and Camp Hill/Mechanicsburg/Harrisburg, Lehman explained. Wyomissing/Reading is appealing for its demographics too, he said.
The expansion plan is taking shape as Interiors Home continues to ride a surprising wave of business triggered by the pandemic.
Lehman had feared that coming out of a 10-week shutdown at the start of the pandemic, business would be hammered; he was hoping for 50% of normal. But it’s been 50% above normal, an experience that’s being replicated across the home-furnishings industry.
The reason, Lehman thinks, is that the pandemic has triggered a version of the snowstorm effect, when people are cooped up in their houses, get weary of their furnishings and, once they can leave the house, start shopping for upgrades. “It just takes events like that to push a lot of people,” Lehman said.
Another boost to business came from the closing of a Lancaster competitor, Wolf Furniture, in March 2020, the month the pandemic began. That shutdown, Lehman believed, steered many Wolf customers to Interiors Home.
It also led many idled Wolf employees to join Interiors Home, a family business like Wolf was until several years before its demise. Some 24 former Wolf employees have been hired, a timely addition when Interiors Home had to cope with the surge in sales. They accounted for the bulk of new hires that lifted its total workforce by 30 employees to 120.
“With Wolf closing,” said Lehman, “there was a tremendous amount of skilled and experienced associates we could bring into our business. With the job market being so challenging, it created an opportunity that most businesses (looking to hire) didn’t have.”
Interiors Home moved its warehousing operation this summer into a 60,000-square-foot leased space at 1260 Corporate Blvd. in the Stony Battery Business Park between Landisville and Mountville.
It sold its 33,000-square-foot warehouse at 217 Wohlsen Way in Centerville last month for $2.8 million to the owner of K&A Appliance. Michael Sheaffer of Bennett Williams Commercial and Brian Davison of High Associates handled the transaction.
Interiors Home dates to 1969, when it was founded by Lehman’s parents, Joseph and Lillian Lehman, also known here as the former owners of Shank’s Extracts. Shank’s was in the news in September when the business and real estate were acquired by Universal Corp. for $113 million.