Last month, Matthews Southwest sat down with Ryan Blumkin to find out more about Nebraska Furniture Mart’s largest store coming to The Colony.
Q. How did you determine that Texas was the next state ready for a Nebraska Furniture Mart?
A: Very early on, it was apparent to us that Texas was ready for a Nebraska Furniture Mart. The overall growth of Texas, more specifically the Dallas and North Texas area, in particular, caught our attention. With an estimated growth that the Dallas MSA would occur between 2011 and the slated opening of the store in Spring of 2015 to be more than the current at the time population of Omaha, Nebraska was something we couldn’t pass up. While growth was a huge factor, the friendliness, pro-business and go-getter mentality of the all the individuals we met with throughout Texas and The Colony leadership helped to solidify our decision and be partners in building what we believe will be the highest volume home furnishings retail store in America.
Q. What other cities were you considering along with The Colony, and how did you ultimately decide on The Colony? What makes The Colony a good fit with the ideals and goals of Nebraska Furniture Mart?
A: We went through a rigorous process and evaluated a number of states and locations. The Colony was well located, had a large amount of contiguous land that we could purchase to build both Nebraska Furniture Mart of Texas and Grandscape, along with a good existing roadway system that could handle the type of traffic we expect to generate. In particular, The Colony was and is a very strong partner willing to work with us to create a one-of-a-kind world-class destination that will attract citizens and tourists for years to come. Plus, Nebraska Furniture Mart has a strong core value system that is based on Integrity and Honesty, Customer Loyalty, Quality Products and Services, Teamwork and being Cost-Effective and Competitive that I believe The Colony leadership and community share.
Q. What do you normally tell someone who has never been to a Nebraska Furniture Mart? What can they expect?
A: Nebraska Furniture Mart has been improving people’s lifestyles through home furnishings for 77 years and currently operates the two largest-volume home furnishing retail stores in the country. We are a one-stop shopping destination for furniture, flooring, appliances and electronics. The new Nebraska Furniture Mart of Texas will be our biggest store yet, with roughly 44 acres/1.9 million square feet under one roof (including the distribution center). For perspective, this is roughly the size of 52 football fields. The store will offer unbelievable low pricing, huge selection and great service. We continually strive to make it easy for our customers to do business with us with our stores that have wide open sightlines and convenient and practical product locations for both the shopper who wants to look around as well as the shopper who wants to get in, get what they need, and get out quickly.
Q. We know Nebraska Furniture Mart has a wonderful history as a family business. Can you share a little about your family – both in the past and your involvement today?
A: The original Nebraska Furniture Mart was founded in 1937 by my great-grandmother Rose Blumkin (“Mrs. B”). Mrs. B had an incredible story – she was a poor Russian immigrant who didn’t speak English and only had a 1st grade education. When her family was starving in the great depression, she set up shop in the basement of her husband’s pawn shop. She liked the furniture business because to her it was a happy business – you have a child, you need furniture, you get married and get a house, you need furniture. Her business model of working on 10-percent margins and sudden growth in business allowed her to overtake the first floor of her husband’s pawn shop. Her success wasn’t without problems in the early stages, one of the hardest problems for her was getting suppliers to sell to her as she destroyed margins for her competitors. Her competitors, with their team of attorneys, sued her for anti-trust. Mrs B., with her broken English, represented herself in the lawsuit, and won after showing she charges a 10-percent mark-up and asking how it could be a crime to not rip off her customers. The great part is the next day, the judge of the case came to her and bought a whole house full of furniture – there was an article in the paper about it and that was her first big break.
The transformation to the current start of Nebraska Furniture Mart happened after my grandfather, Louie Blumkin, returned from WWII. He returned to the family business and really helped take it to the next level gaining credit for building the first big box store in the US. This growth allowed for the majority stake of the company to be acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 1983. Even after acquisition by Berkshire Hathaway the family still is an integral part of the business. At the helm currently of Nebraska Furniture Mart is my father, Irv and my Uncle, Ron. They have been at the helm since the mid-1980s and have overseen great growth and improvement in the business. Many of the 4th generation of the Blumkin family members are in the business including myself, my sister Becca, and my cousins Matt and Juan.
As a family, we are very close and take trips with the entire Blumkin family once or twice a year. With many of the family in the business it’s hard to leave it behind even at dinner, conversations are often focused on business until one of the non-business members redirects to a topic more suitable for the whole family.
The great part of Nebraska Furniture Mart is for 77 years we have operated under many of the guiding business principles that Mrs. B’s instilled such as “sell cheap and tell the truth” and look forward to our future in Texas.
And a few words from Berkshire-Hathaway CEO, Warren Buffett
“I’m chairman of Berkshire-Hathaway, and I have to tell you, I’m enthused about this project that Nebraska Furniture Mart is putting
that area. It’s going to attract tens of thousands of people daily. We will have this store that really blows people’s minds away, and the associated retailers that join us down there are going to see crowds like they haven’t seen before.”together at Grandscape. At Grandscape, we’ve got the advantage of size. We’ve got a lot of land to work with, well-located land, we’ve got an exploding population in
They like to do things big in Texas; we like to do things big at Nebraska Furniture Mart, and when you get the two of them together, it’s going to be huge.
We always like to go first-class, we like to go big, and at Grandscape, we have the chance with this terrific piece of land that we were able to acquire, to put together the biggest home-furniture store in the country. And with the people who are going to join us in the development, it’s going to be a blockbuster.”