The Wichita Eagle
January 16, 2013
Norwalk Furniture & Design is still in business, but you won’t find it at the Shops at Tallgrass at 21st and Rock Road.
In fact, you might not find it at all if you don’t know what you’re looking for. This month, Julia Benson moved her store to temporary space in a warehouse at 8630 E. 32nd Court North.
“It’s a pretty good-looking showroom,” she says of the selling area she’s created.
Benson has had the 3,000-square-foot warehouse, which is in the same building as the American Heart Association, for eight years.
She and her husband, Jim, bought the business – which then was a franchise called Norwalk the Furniture Idea – in 2004. Greg Wyers opened the store in 5,110 square feet at Tallgrass in 1998.
“In fact, Norwalk was the first store in that complex,” Julia Benson says.
She and the chain faced some serious hurdles when the economy crashed a few years ago.
“In 2008, when the banks first started squeezing in, Norwalk went under,” Benson says.
Her store remained in business but felt the pinch, she says.
“The same thing happened to me that happened to everybody else.”
That’s why she’s looking for new, less-expensive space.
“I love what I do,” Benson says. “I believe that our customers will follow us wherever we go, and so far I’ve been proven right.”
She adds, “I don’t mean that to sound like a braggart.”
In the couple of weeks since she’s moved, though, Benson’s business hasn’t diminished.
Still, she hopes to find new space quickly, and she’s not picky about what part of Wichita it’s in.
There was a time when Norwalk’s customers mostly seemed to come from the east side, Benson says.
“Now, I’ve got a ton of west-side customers.”
So she’s looking everywhere for new space, including the east and west sides, downtown and Delano.
“I don’t think it would have that big of an impact,” she says of where she’s located. “I want a good deal.”
Adam Clements of Builders Inc. is her broker.
Benson hopes to have an approximately 5,000-square-foot store where she can sell American-made, custom-upholstered furniture, area rugs, art and accessories.
The store also offers design services in customers’ homes.
A new group now runs the Norwalk company, and “everything’s better,” Benson says, but she’s no longer a franchisee.
“I just never changed my name because I’m a tightwad and didn’t want to change my signage,” she says.
In an uncertain time, she says clients didn’t need the change, either.
“I needed to just stay the same.”