Thursday, March 08, 2001

Furniture store owner plans to rebuild

Naked Furniture staff plans to stay

By Anna Guido
Enquirer Contributor

        SPRINGDALE — David Forrester can't linger amid the charred and smoke-damaged remains of his once-thriving business.

        On Valentine's Day morning, fire swept through his Naked Furniture store on Princeton Pike, shooting flames so high that approaching firefighters could see the blaze from Interstate 275.

        “When I go, I can only stay a little while. It really tears at my heart,” said Mr. Forrester, of Oxford. “It's a big loss.”

[photo] David Forrester looks over the charred merchandise from his Naked Furniture store in Springdale.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        Springdale Chief Fire Inspector Mike Hoffman said the fire started in a plastic waste can. It caused an estimated $500,000 damage, destroying nearly 100 pieces of solid wood furniture and leaving hundreds of other pieces of furniture and home accessories with smoke damage.

        “The cause of the fire is undetermined,” Mr. Hoffman said. “But we believe it was an accident and we feel for the loss of Mr. Forrester's property.”

        Nearly a month has passed, yet the smell of fire and smoke still permeates the parking lot. In the rear of the building, dozens of charred and broken tables, chairs, cabinets, desks, armoires and other wood furnishings are stacked loosely in a huge pile, some still bearing their dangling price tags. It looks as though someone is preparing for a bonfire.

        “This is a total disaster. This is something I put my heart into,” said Mr. Forrester, 47. “My whole career led up to this. And the day the fire started, the store was the most beautiful it had ever been.”

        There are 33 Naked Furniture franchises, all east of the Mississippi. Mr. Forrester ran the only one in Cincinnati. He's had the business for 18 years, starting out on Colerain Avenue in Colerain Township.

        A former buyer for Pogues and Jo-Ann Fabrics, Mr. Forrester bought the Naked Furniture franchise because he “wanted a business that would do well in good and bad times.”

        Naked Furniture, based in Clarks Summit, Pa., was that business. Its customer base is twofold, serving those who are looking for a cheaper buy in unfinished furniture, and those not as concerned with price who want a custom-finished product.

        Mr. Forrester said the business was a way of life for his family. His wife, Amy, and their sons, Michael, 20, and Brian, 16, all have worked there. Some of the salespeople are like family, too.

        “I want to help put this store back together. I like this job,” said sales manager Bill Spears, a 15-year employee. “David gives us an incredible amount of freedom, and that freedom helps us keep the store running very efficiently.”

        The store's several other full- and part-time employees also plan to stay and help rebuild. An insurance policy is paying their wages.

        The store is expected to reopen within six months and a fire sale is planned soon. Customers have been referred to the Centerville, Ohio, store.

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