Sunday, March 16, 2003

At-home trend is winner at store

Covington shopkeepers expanded

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

[photo] Salesman Bruce Peelman sets up merchandise at the new Next Dimension Studios outlet store in Covington.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
A Covington store, Next Dimension Studios Inc., is taking advantage of a trend that finds Americans seeking solace in comfort foods, classic sitcoms and time at home.

Experts say many people sought the familiar in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. It should come as no surprise, then, that the home furnishings industry has seen increased demand for the things people use to make their homes cozy: framed art, lamps, mirrors, pillows, throws, candlesticks, hand-painted furniture and luxury items.

"The home furnishings industry is pretty hot right now," said Ellen Tolley, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation in Washington.

Factory-direct and outlet stores are doing particularly well, Tolley said. "People like to indulge in art and accessories without breaking the bank."

Next Dimension Studios, which recently moved from Crescent Springs to Covington, last year tested the market with a factory-direct framed art and home furnishings store.

The store did so well that partners Eric Moore, Randy O'Hara and Rich Heidrich - all with Northern Kentucky roots - decided to move and expand into the old Wadsworth Electric Co. building at 20 W. 11th St.

Business grew by word of mouth, Moore said, and the partners joked that the store was a poorly kept secret, since they did no advertising.

Also prompting the move and expansion was the company's selection last year as exclusive manufacturer of Kathy Ireland Home Collection artwork sold in retail stores worldwide.

"It's been an absolutely phenomenal year," Moore said.

The new Covington manufacturing facility and factory direct store opened March 1 and boasts prices of 40 percent to 70 percent off retail.

Donna Steele of Louisville stopped in earlier this month for the first time.

"I heard about it from a friend," Steele said. "She told me I'd definitely find a lot of cool accessories here."

Admittedly not a great decorator, Steele said the amount and variety of merchandise overwhelmed her.

"I'm kind of struggling in here," she said. "I'm having a hard time picking things out."

The 6,000-square-foot showroom is stocked with more than 2,000 items. Many are one-of-a-kind designer pieces, store manager Paula York said.

Imported merchandise is from China, India and the Philippines and carries the ethnic influences of those regions, now a popular style.

York, who owned and operated a Decorating Den franchise in Alexandria for several years, said she tries to present merchandise in ways to help customers with their decorating needs.

The Covington store is the third for Next Dimension Studios, founded in 1995. Moore and his partners launched the concept late in 2001 with stores in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Before then, the company distributed its merchandise primarily through retail and rental furniture chains nationwide.

The Next Dimension Studios factory-direct store is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Telephone: (859) 426-9911: toll-free: (888) 346-3674. Custom art framing is available by appointment only.


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