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Furniture store chain plans to set up shop

Haverty Furniture Cos. Inc. will open its first store in the county by early fall.

By JENNIFER GOLDBLATT

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 17, 2001


PORT RICHEY -- Haverty Furniture Cos. Inc. plans to move its name-brand furniture into Pasco County.

The Atlanta-based chain bought a property previously occupied by Roberds at 8905 U.S. 19. Haverty plans to hire about 30 employees and open by early fall. The company carries brands such as Thomasville, Lane and Broyhill, and sells them in the middle- to upper-price ranges.

The Port Richey location will be Haverty's first in Pasco, one of 20 in Florida and 107 it operates throughout the Southeast.

"We're interested in improving our reach and customer base in that area," said Rawson Haverty Jr., senior vice president of the company. "This store is positioned well for future growth."

Like other furniture retailers, Haverty has suffered recently as the bearish stock market has made consumers reluctant to make big purchases. The publicly held company earned $27.9-million on sales of $680.9-million in 2000.

In the first three months of this year, sales at stores open at least a year -- a key measure of retail growth -- declined 3 percent. The company has warned analysts that earnings for the first quarter will be lower than expected.

In a statement, the company's chief executive, John Slater, blamed the decline on the soft economy but said he expects home sales to remain strong, interest rates to drop and refinancings to surge -- all of which should help boost sales.

Even so, the company is growing slowly. The local store is one of three the company plans to open this year.

"We've slowed down in the last quarter just to be more conservative with our capital, but we also want to be looking for opportunities," Rawson Haverty Jr. said. "We were able to get a good value on the real estate in an area where we already have delivery and expertise; and we believe that that part of the county is going to begin to grow."

The company bought the 60,600-square-foot building that Dayton, Ohio-based Roberds abandoned when it filed for bankruptcy last year. The furniture and appliance retailer shut its eight stores in the Tampa Bay market. The building and land are assessed at $2.8-million, according to the Pasco County property appraisers Web site. The sale price was not available Monday.

- Jennifer Goldblatt covers business in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6229 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6229. Her e-mail address is goldblatt@sptimes.com.

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