By Tony Parra
June Merrick said one customer entered the Ashley Furniture store this week and said, “It was like she left Portales and entered the big city.”
The furniture store has undergone a complete facelift and employees made the transition into the new store this week. Monday was the first day the locally-owned furniture store was open as the Ashley Furniture store. The store used to be called Factory Direct.
“It’s wonderful,” June Merrick said. “This is what we’ve been working so hard for. It’s a beautiful environment.”
The furniture store doubled in size and in staff. The size of the store doubled from 11,000 square-feet to 22,000 square feet. The older part of the store was remodeled and what used to be a parking lot on the north side is the new addition.
“I’ve been living here my whole life and we take pride in our businesses,” Max Merrick, June’s husband and co-owner, said. Max Merrick has been the owner and operator of Trader Horn’s True Value hardware store for 21 years. “It’s been a fun project. We redid everything and remodeled it. I can’t think of anything we didn’t take apart.”
Brenda Levacy, sales manager for Ashley Furniture said the number of employees went from 10 to 12 employees to approximately 24 employees, who are part-time and full-time employees.
“We’ve been anxious for the opening,” Levacy said. “It’s been nice. We’ve had a lot of good responses so far.”
Levacy said the store is now completely computerized and it has made the paperwork more efficient and they can give customer a target date for delivery of their furniture right away. June said the new furniture is ordered and delivered within a month from California and the furniture in the store is purely for display.
June said the home furniture store will have it’s grand opening on Feb. 23. She said one of the advantages of the new store is the ability to be able to purchase everything for a home at the furniture store. All of the accessories can be purchased at Ashley Furniture. The store is filled with “collections” showing different designs for the office, kids’ room, bedroom and living room.
The furniture store stayed open during much of the construction work. June said they closed for five days while they had designers, who flew in from Ashley Furniture design, decorate the store.
“The decision to do it was easy,” June said. “We had seen Ashley Furniture and loved the concept of a special-order furniture store.”
June said she had been ordering furniture from Ashley Furniture during her years at the store, however, obtaining the Ashley Furniture store name meant better pricing and the continued help from Ashley Furniture representatives on packaging, delivering, accessorizing and designing of the store.
Max said it is the second Ashley Furniture store in New Mexico, the first is located in Las Cruces. He said the next closest location to Portales is in Lubbock, Texas.
June Merrick credits her parents Charles and Norma Horn for helping her and Max get started in the retail industry. June said her father opened the True Value store more than 45 years ago.