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Less is more in West Fargo

Furniture For Less is looking for bigger and better things in West Fargo. But just like their customers, the owners are working through some construction dust and a few moving pains. "We're still getting our offices set up. Our desks come in tomo...

Furniture For Less is looking for bigger and better things in West Fargo.

But just like their customers, the owners are working through some construction dust and a few moving pains.

"We're still getting our offices set up. Our desks come in tomorrow," Darrell Hansen said Monday.

The store has taken a major leap in ambiance since its days as Larson's Super Valu.

Gone are the freezers and suspended ceilings. Rotted walls have been replaced. Carpets and bright lights now lend a warm glow to the once industrial interior.

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But Hansen and co-owner Barry Sundlie have bigger plans for the Sheyenne Street mainstay.

While the new facade is being finished for the 26,000-square-foot building, another nearly 16,000 square feet of showroom and storage space is going up on the north side of the parking lot "with the expectation it's going to be one of the largest stores in North Dakota," Hansen said.

"We're at a point now we beat quite a few other furniture stores in space," he said.

"Reaction has been incredible," from West Fargo area customers, amazed by the transformation of the store. "I've just had real good feedback," Hansen said.

The new addition and connecting walkway could be done by August, but Hansen is counting on September. Then comes parking lot work and landscaping.

With the ease of access from Main and 13th avenues, rising housing construction in West Fargo, and being close enough to competitors to make customers' comparison shopping easier, the new location is hands-down better than the former north Fargo store, sales manager Terry Bosch said.

"The biggest comment we get here ... is this one is easier to find," Bosch said. "The name recognition from the Larson's store was nice. A lot of people knew where this building was."

Hansen said the store has a solid niche in supplying unique furniture and home décor at low prices.

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He said he keeps the bottom line foremost in mind. For example, he figures he spends a third of what competitors along 13th Avenue must for space. That way he can sell his products cheaper.

He also has space now to experiment with displays, such as a wall of cubes filled with chairs upholstered in an array of colors and designs, or platforms to lift couches and chairs off the floor to emphasize design.

"I've never been to their store before. I love it," said Shanda Askland of Lake Park, Minn., as she finished her first stop in shopping for a living room set. "They had a couple of things I liked and I like the prices."

"A lot of nice stuff. Very big, very spacious. It should be huge when it's done," said Dan Toop, shopping for his home on nearby Francis Street.

Furniture For Less was started about 5½ years ago in Moorhead, Hansen said. It later moved to north Fargo.

In the meantime, it grew to be an "average-sized" furniture store, meaning annual sales in the $2 million to $5 million range, Hansen said.

The growth has been quick.

Sales in 2002 were up 25 percent from 2001, Hansen said, and 2001 sales were up 90 percent from 2000. He expects sales to continue to grow 25 percent to 30 percent a year.

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From one employee when it started, the store now has 20 employees, he said.

"West Fargo has been wonderful," Hansen said of the reception he's gotten from city and business leaders. "I think they're really hoping for this store to be an anchor and give Sheyenne Street a boost."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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