October 14, 2013

Ethan Allen furniture heads for Portland

The company bucks the trend toward big box stores in the suburbs.

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Employees Lenora Bourgeois and Julie Parent pack wallpaper books at the Ethan Allen furniture store in South Portland in preparation for their move into a new store in Portland.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Additional Photos Below

Youngs Furniture is an example of a family-owned store that survived because it made the move to the suburbs.

Until the late 1980s, the store was located at the corner of Free and Cross streets. But customers complained constantly about the difficulty of parking or about getting parking tickets, said Stephen Young, one of the store’s third-generation owners.

Rather than close, the store moved to Forest Avenue and then to Western Avenue in South Portland to the building that serves as the current location of Ethan Allen.

Young said that moving out of the congested city center was critical to the store’s success, and he’s a big believer in the need to have a large space to display a lot of furniture.

“Most people want to sit and touch and feel,” he said.

Hub Furniture, which celebrated its 100-year anniversary this year, is located in a former gum factory on Fore Street in Portland.

The store was located on Congress Street near Monument Square until the late 1960s. It managed to stay downtown only because its new location on Fore Street has 35 parking spaces, said owner Sam Novick.

Novick said he is puzzled by Ethan Allen’s move to Commercial Street because it won’t have any parking spaces of its own. “I don’t know how they are going to survive,” he said. “If people can’t get to you, it’s a problem.”

Holly Perry, assistant manager at Company C, a Commercial Street shop where people order custom-made furniture, said it’s surprising that a chain like Ethan Allen would want to be part of the street’s eclectic mix of offices, small shops and bars.

While it’s an open question whether Ethan Allen will thrive in its new location, she said, she doesn’t see the lack of parking as a significant problem.

While parking issues may discourage some potential customers of her store, she said, it’s not a problem for most.

“People who shop in our store somehow find a way,” she said.


Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: tbell@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Hub Furniture recently celebrated its 100th year in downtown Portland.

Press Herald file photo/Gordon Chibroski


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