Huizen Opening Downtown Store

August 26, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — A new furniture store featuring a new line of loft-style furniture is coming to Ionia Avenue. The Huizen family, owners of Huizen’s Furniture, plan to open the first furniture store of its kind in the United States at 130 Ionia Ave. SW later this year.

EQ3 is not only the name of the newest Huizen store; it’s also the name of the furniture line the store will carry. Produced by Palliser Furniture, the largest residential furniture maker in Canada, the EQ3 line is targeted toward young professionals, college students and anyone else who falls within the 18-to-35 demographic group.

Mark Huizen told the Business Journal last week that EQ3 will occupy all 10,000 square feet in the single-story building and will open in either November or December. He also said the venture is somewhat of a departure for the family-owned firm, which has sold furniture locally since 1926 when his grandfather Bert Huizen started the business.

“It’s a different name, but the same ownership. It’s a different concept and a different look,” he said.

The Huizen family bought the building from Rockford Development Co. and is using the Belmont-based company’s construction division to do the renovation work.

“We haven’t seen this kind of retail downtown in 50 years,” said Rockford CEO John Wheeler, whose firm is building the Cherry Street Landing project, a multi-million dollar effort that includes the Huizen’s building.

“They are going to do well,” added Wheeler.

The renovation work should finish by the middle of next month and Huizen said he needs another month to set up the store. He hasn’t pinned down a specific date to open yet, but he hopes to do so before Thanksgiving.

“It will be late fall or early winter,” said Huizen.

When that day arrives the Huizens will be offering an exclusive line of contemporary, affordable — and new — furniture. Palliser only unveiled EQ3 late last October at a company-owned store in Winnipeg, a shop that also happens to be 10,000 square feet in size.

Huizen approached Palliser in January, telling them that the EQ3 line was what the family was looking for and that the building they had would complement the line. In April, Palliser agreed to be their vendor and gave the family permission to use the EQ3 name for the store.

“This store will be the first private one that is outside of Canada,” said Huizen. “The product will be out there, but the store will be a first as a stand-alone store.”

EQ3 offers tables, chairs, sofas, storage units and work areas for every room in the home, including styles for the office. Palliser called the line a “high design at affordable prices with great functionality” that works in the home and at the office.

“Function and style are important in EQ3. A single piece of furniture is designed so that it can be used in more than one way,” said EQ3 Product Manager Christina Petersson. “For instance, the B2C shelf unit stands vertically as a bookcase or horizontally as a sideboard or a credenza. The look is clean and uncluttered.”

“It’s a look that will look good in a lot of the lofts that are in downtown with its clean, contemporary lines,” said Huizen. “It will be displayed in a setting that looks like an old brick building that they are in downtown.”

But Huizen pointed out he didn’t expect that only downtowners would be drawn to the furniture. He felt the line also would appeal to those living in the suburbs.

Huizen said the building, its price and the setting it would provide convinced him to do a rare thing today: open a new retail store downtown.

“You can’t build an old building that looks like a loft, number one. So you have to go to where the old buildings are, and I’ve seen this concept work in other buildings in places like downtown Chicago,” he said. “And the location, I’m hoping, is going to be a good one.”

EQ3 will be a block north of the Western Michigan University Downtown Center and a few blocks north of Purple East, another Ionia retailer. The Hirt Development Group of Holland plans to open a new Irish pub next month next to the Huizen store at 100 Ionia SW, and access to U.S. 131 is nearby, making it easy to reach the store.

“The building is just ideally suited for it. When it opens and people see what I’m doing, they are going to understand,” he said.

The furniture will be sold in a flat pack, meaning some assembly is required. At the same time, having EQ3 available in this manner keeps the prices lower and makes the products available to a wider range of customers.

“The target demographic is 18 to 35 and those are the people downtown who go to concerts and restaurants. My core customers will be 25 to 30, young professionals who just graduated from college and really don’t like going to the malls,” said Huizen.

The family-owned business is in its third generation and EQ3 is being viewed as a way to bring the fourth generation into the fold. The new Ionia shop will be the family’s third outlet in the city, as the two Huizen’s Furniture stores are at 1031 Burton St. SW, and 1428 Plainfield Ave. NE.

“I’m really looking at it as separate,” said Huizen of EQ3. “It will be a separate profit center and separate merchandise. We won’t share trucks, a warehouse, or any of that overhead either.”           

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