Furniture Rescue – Joplin
- Published: Monday, Feb. 18, 2013
Whom do people in southwest Missouri, northwest Arkansas, northeast Oklahoma and southeast Kansas call when grandmother’s rocking chair is broken, when the back on the recliner snaps or when the cat rips up that favorite sofa?
Furniture Rescue in Joplin, founded by Dewey Sheets, Jr. and April Sheets.
But whom did the Sheets call when their business was devastated first by the 2011 Joplin tornado then by a warehouse fire?
The staff of the Missouri SBDC at Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) in Joplin.
Furniture Rescue was founded in 2002 as a furniture retailer. With guidance from the team at the Missouri SBDC, it grew into furniture repair and restoration and warranty work for furniture manufacturers. Then the May 2011 tornado hit the company hard; Sheets salvaged what he could and put equipment in storage in a warehouse on Fourth Street.
One morning Sheets woke up and saw a plume of smoke rising above downtown about 10 miles south.
“Surely it can’t be us,” Sheets remembers thinking. “No one can be that unlucky.”
The Sheets hustled to the warehouse. They were that unlucky.
“We just stood there and watched it burn like we were watching a movie, because it didn’t feel real,” he says.
The Sheets were not alone in their loss. Several devastated businesses had rented space there for equipment or inventory after the tornado. Calling in help from two neighboring towns, fire crews kept the flames from spreading to a warehouse next door, but the warehouse was reduced to a smoking ruin.
“What’s next?” Sheets thought. “An earthquake? A fault line opening up right under my feet?”
Sheets was used to change. He had been a salesman with a less than fulfilling career until he opened an antique store on Main Street in Joplin. He had maintained booths at antique stores over the years and took that inventory to found Furniture Rescue. Originally, Furniture Rescue focused on selling used and new furniture as well as unique antique pieces. With the assistance of the SBDC staff, Sheets determined there was a market for furniture restoration and repair and decided to transform his business into such a company.
Kenneth Surbrugg and Karen Bradshaw, business development specialists, and Lisa Robinson, director of the SBDC at MSSU, began helping the Sheets with more effective marketing suggestions, writing a business plan, developing financial projections and applying for loans.
“They [the SBDC team at MSSU] have helped us work through every obstacle. The guidance I’ve received over the years has been priceless in developing and transforming my business. I’ve learned how to review my financials and manage expenses. I’m happy to say today that with everything we’ve been through, the business is housed in a building that we own, and I will continue to reach out to the SBDC for assistance.”
– Dewey Sheets, founder of Furniture Rescue
After a few lean years, Sheets had increased his clientele, had a unit filled with furniture and had filled another with refinishing materials. Robinson and Bradshaw also worked with the Sheets on leveraging their financial information to make informed business decisions. A few years later, the SBDC staff also worked with Sheets to analyze financial records, deposit credit card payments and use QuickBooks.
Sales increased over the years. But when the recession hit, the company was forced to move to a smaller location and downsize. Business slowly recovered.
Then came the tornado. Then the fire.
Ironically, the business had experienced some financial benefit from the tornado. After moving, settling in and purchasing replacement equipment, the business was almost overwhelmed with customers looking to get furniture restored in the aftermath of the storm.
Today, Furniture Rescue owns its building, staffed by six employees, and revenue has grown from zero to nearly $250,000 in 2011. Furniture Rescue also recently added warranty work for several large furniture manufacturers, including Nebraska Furniture Mart, and the company is considering a second retail location to sell mid-priced unfinished furniture and finishing supplies.
“I have personally witnessed the growth of Sheets as a business owner, learning more and more each year he has been in business,” says Robinson. “At times, the business was barely surviving. Rising out of the rubble of May 22, 2011, and transforming Furniture Rescue into a stable, strong company has been heart-warming to watch. The hours we have worked with Sheets and his company have come together in the past year to show the community a transformation like no other. Furniture Rescue is the story of a survivor.”
Sheets has nothing but praise for the SBDC. “They have helped us work through every obstacle. The guidance I’ve received over the years has been priceless in developing and transforming my business. I’ve learned how to review my financials and manage expenses. I’m happy to say today that with everything we’ve been through, the business is housed in a building that we own, and I will continue to reach out to the SBDC for assistance.”
Furniture Rescue believes in survivors. Their slogan is “Saving furniture one piece at a time” because, Sheets says, furniture can carry enormous emotional value.
“When a loved one dies and the only thing you have left is a chair dad sat in behind his desk for 20 years, it’s priceless,” said Sheets. “You want to do the job well to honor the dad.”