There was a point toward the end of February when the coronavirus was starting to rear its ugly head and April Royal and RJ Cummins were thinking seriously about getting out of the furniture business.
The year earlier they opened Resort Furniture Liquidators off State Road 44 in Lecanto. But when virus fears started ramping up, customer traffic dwindled to a halt because people were hesitant to make big purchases fearing an economic slowdown.
Not long after, they were forced by the state to shut the doors anyway, being a non-essential business.
Royal said she and Cummins had two choices: “We either close our business or we think outside the box.”
They chose the second option and are happy they did.
On July 6, they opened in a new, more visible location closer to Inverness, at 3802 East Gulf-to-Lake Highway (State Road 44). The building has the same 2,000-square-foot selling floor but minus the voluminous warehouse space. They have a more manageable lease, less overhead and more foot traffic from being inside a strip mall: Times Square Plaza.
“We needed to find a location that was more affordable for our budget,” she said.
But perhaps the biggest change: they now have two businesses in one. They still have the liquidation part, where they obtain used furniture from area theme parks such as Disney World and big-name hotels. But they also opened RJ’s Furniture Living, which features all new furniture with top brand names for those customers who were demanding it.
“We can offer something for everyone and cater to more people, “ she said. “It’s the best of both worlds.”
Royal said she and Cummins made out reasonably well during the two-month shutdown, thanks to virtual online buying, which has introduced into her business another profitable concept.
One downside is that what used to take four to six weeks to get in new furniture now takes up to 12 weeks, due to manufacturing plants being closed so long. It can be frustrating for customers but they understand, she said.
They were forced to lay off their employees and take over the running of the business themselves but so far, it’s all working out. Royal is also proud that her family-run place is locally owned and operated.
And for folks who are still nervous about visiting in person, customers can shop online. Royal and Cummins offer delivery service.
The furniture business nationwide has taken a hit from COVID-19 but Royal said she and RJ are upbeat about the future. They took what could have been a crushing blow and turned it into a new business opportunity.
“We are really excited,” she said.
Resort Furniture Liquidators and RJ’s Furniture Living are at 3802 East Gulf to Lake Highway (State Road 44), in the Times Square Plaza (with the lime green roof). For more information,visit www.rflcitrus.com or call 352-419-4440.