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Dealer back to work to sell quality furniture


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 2001

PALM HARBOR -- After selling his eight furniture stores in his native England and moving to Florida, Derek Wrighton was enjoying retirement when he decided to buy a desk for his new computer.

PALM HARBOR -- After selling his eight furniture stores in his native England and moving to Florida, Derek Wrighton was enjoying retirement when he decided to buy a desk for his new computer.

That desk, an unassembled assortment of laminated pieces, put Wrighton back into the furniture business.

Last week, he opened the Home Office Gallery at 31055 U.S. 19 N in the Curlew Lakes shopping center in Palm Harbor. The store specializes in office furniture -- desks, file cabinets and computer hutches -- as well as home entertainment centers that can be matched with the office units.

All the furniture is professionally constructed of natural woods and wood finishes. There is no particle board or staples. Most of the furniture is made in California by manufacturers that, Wrighton said, have come to realize that people want their home office furniture to be the same quality as their living room furnishings.

Prices range from $359 for a two-piece work station in natural oak to $4,500 for a six-piece computer work station in solid maple that's also available in 11 finishes.

"We have the largest concentration of home office furniture in Tampa Bay," he said.

The store also features the desk that brought the 59-year-old self-made multimillionaire out of retirement.

"I've brought to this store that very desk," he said, "as a monument to the reason why I wanted to get this whole thing going."

Wrighton said when he bought the desk at a home improvement center, he was told he could put it together in an hour and a half. "Seven hours later," he recalled, "I looked at my handiwork and thought this is a piece of rubbish."

A couple of weeks later, his prediction came true. While moving the desk, "one whole side collapsed. It was like the Titanic going down," he said. "I thought, this is pathetic."

Shortly after that, Wrighton, who also is an interior designer, took on a project to design a furniture store interior for a friend in Port Charlotte. While on that project, he stopped by a small furniture store in a nearby town. "The owner was doing very well with not very good stuff and a lousy presentation," Wrighton said. It was just the bait he needed. He decided it was time to go back to work.

In his search for the right location, he found the 3,500-square-foot store in Palm Harbor, signed the lease, and he and his wife moved from Sarasota to East Lake.

He designed the store's interior, of course, and invested $250,000 in the project. He already has plans to expand. "I'm opening four of these stores in the next year," he said. "The second one will be in Carrollwood, and I anticipate a February opening."

Wrighton hired two salesmen to work with him, and together, he said, they have more than 85 years experience in the furniture business.

He's delighted he left retirement. "I'm enjoying every . . . minute of it," he said. "It's both terrifying and exhilarating."

The Home Office Gallery is open Monday through Sunday. Call 789-9700.

New medical director named at Trillium Center

Dr. Diane Normandin, a family practice physician, has been appointed medical director of Trillium Medical Center at 1811 N Belcher Road, Clearwater.

She is in private practice and is on the staffs of Morton Plant, Mease Dunedin and Mease Countryside hospitals.

Before moving here in 1995, she was a professor in the Family Practice Department at McGill University in Montreal.

Physician joins staff of BayCare Health Centers

Dr. Gregory J. Onderko has joined the staff of BayCare Behavioral Health Centers with offices at 1831 N Belcher Road, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg.

He was most recently medical director of Neurobehavioral Center in Sarasota. He was clinical director of outpatient services at Manatee Glenns Mental Health Center in Bradenton from 1990 to 1999 and maintains a private practice in the Sarasota-Bradenton area.

A native of Pittsburgh, he received a medical degree from the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery in Des Moines, Iowa, and completed his residency in psychiatry at the Medical College of Pennsylvania.

He is a diplomate in forensic medicine and board certified in psychiatry and neurology.

Veterinarians honored for outstanding service

Dr. James D. Lutz, a veterinarian at Largo Veterinary Hospital, and Dr. Don Morgan, a veterinarian at Bluffs Animal Hospital in Belleair Bluffs, each received the Gold Star Award for outstanding service at the recent annual meeting of the Florida Veterinary Medical Association.

Lutz has served as president of both the Pinellas County Veterinary Medical Society and the Pinellas Animal Foundation. He has supported the SPCA as a surgeon, clinician, manager, educator, caregiver and advocate for homeless pets in the area.

Morgan has served as president, secretary and on the board of the Pinellas Veterinary Medical Society. He also has served on the board of the Pinellas Animal Foundation and is a leader of the Florida Veterinary Medical Association's political action committee.

Established in 1929 and based in Orlando, the Florida Veterinary Medical Association has more than 1,800 members.

New coordinators join Clearwater Bar group

Kim Davis has joined the Clearwater Bar Association, 314 Missouri Ave. S, as program coordinator. Her duties include maintaining the membership database and managing the audio tape program.

Marlene Hubbard has joined the association to work with Davis as a lawyer referral service coordinator.

Nearly 100 association members are on the referral service panel and receive client referrals in their practice areas.

Budget Blinds outlet named best franchiser

Budget Blinds of East Palm Harbor, a franchise owned by Kate and Greg Ney of Oldsmar, was named the best franchiser in the window and floor coverings category in the March issue of Entrepreneur magazine.

The business showroom is featured at the Web site

The parent firm, Budget Blinds Inc. of Orange, Calif., has more than 200 independent franchisees in 36 states.

-- Palm Harbor bureau chief Rick Danielson contributed to this column.

-- News of businesses and business people can be faxed to the Business Digest at 445-4119 or mailed to Business Digest, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. We are interested in new and unusual businesses, promotions, expansions and major new contracts. Photos can be sent but not all will be used and they cannot be returned.

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