Furniture maverick bets on East Colfax corner.

Author:Lewis, Pete
 
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FIFTY YEARS AGO THE SOUTHEAST CORNER OF COLFAX AVENUE and Galena Street boasted the largest J.C. Penney store west of the Mississippi River. The Aurora neighborhood has changed a lot since then, and even Penney's has been gone since the early '70s.

But in a few months, Penney's former store at 10180 E. Colfax will be reborn as a Broyhill Home Collections store. Major retail is returning to the East Colfax corridor.

North Carolina-based Broyhill Furniture introduced the Broyhill Home Collections concept in 2003 with the opening of a store in Eugene, Ore. While traditional furniture stores sell many brands, Home Collections stores carry only Broyhill furniture and home accessories, all displayed in complete coordinated collections.

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The Aurora store will be Broyhill Home Collections' first store in Colorado and one of the largest single-brand furniture stores in the country, with about 45,000 square feet of showroom.

Colorado's demographics are well aligned with Broyhill's target customers--the middle 70 percent of the furniture market.

Still, the question begs: Why East Colfax?

With so many shopping destinations in the Denver metro area, why would a national retailer take a chance on a neighborhood long associated with pawn shops, ethnic grocery stores and beauty parlors? And what about the three essential ingredients for retail success--location, location and location?

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Whoever coined that adage definitely had never met Tom Thompson. In 1983, Thompson started selling unfinished furniture in 3,000 square feet that he leased inside the former Penney's. At the time, the building's primary tenant was an office-supply company.

"Right in the middle of the pens and pencils, I sold furniture," says Thompson. "I had no key (to the building) and no sign. It made no sense, but it worked." Three years later, Thompson moved across Colfax into his own store. But in the late '80s, he purchased the...

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