Jan. 28—In quirky good news for commercial real estate in Bakersfield, a Fresno-based furniture chain is moving into a large and prominent storefront on Ming Avenue — while doing basically the same thing but with a different retail focus just half a mile away.
Quality Furniture Direct recently bought the former Toys R Us on Ming Avenue and plans to stock it with rustic, American-style furniture owner-operator Eddie Abunaim described as medium high-end. He estimated the store will employ 35 people when it opens in mid-March.
Close to three times that many employees will work at the much larger space the company has leased at the former Sears at Valley Plaza. Abunaim said that store will sell rugs and other home furnishings, in addition to furniture from close to 20 different countries, when it opens later this year.
The stores are part of Quality Furniture's plan to open 20 locations across the state during the next four to five years. With existing sales floors in Fresno and Visalia, Abunaim said his next stores will be in Modesto and Ventura.
Abunaim said he's particularly optimistic about the economy of the Central Valley, which he sees as being hungry for the products he wants to sell.
"I think the Central Valley is looking for a new style, different furniture from the market," he said, adding his company offers financing for up to six years.
Quality Furniture's arrival has breathed new life into retail spaces that have sat vacant for years.
The Toys R Us space closed in mid-2018 after the chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization the previous fall. Sears suffered its own financial problems and closed the Valley Plaza location in early 2019.
Bakersfield commercial real estate broker Scott Underhill, a retail specialist and partner at Newmark Grubb ASU & Associates, called Abunaim's entry a good sign for Bakersfield.
"No. 1, he bought Toys R Us, and he was enough of a financially stable tenant that he was able to lease the Sears," he said. "I think that bodes very well for the guy."
Furniture stores are natural fits for large storefronts, Underhill noted, adding that two other large furniture stores operate in close proximity to the Quality Furniture sites.
Following the loss of several local furniture stores during Great Recession, he said in Bakersfield the industry seems to have rebounded strongly among customers at different price levels and financing needs.
"Everybody likes new furniture," he said.