WR retailer chooses different direction

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Store closing > Handy to take a different approach in selling furniture

Months ago, the town of White Rock was abuzz about a new furniture store opening directly across from the Bilingual Montessori School in the old village shopping center. The once frosted glass and dusty storefront suddenly began to glow with activity. It seemed that the lonely strip of empty retail spaces might finally get its second wind.

Furniture is now beautifully displayed inside the spacious retail location, enticing passers-by to stop and take a second look; however, it seems now that the store will never open with regular hours. Owner Perry Handy shares that getting a business off the ground in Los Alamos is extremely difficult, especially in White Rock; and he is convinced that the area will never successfully support his furniture business, or any other retail business.

The Handys are long-time residents of Los Alamos. They own the village center shops, which they purchased six years ago, when the buildings went into foreclosure. The family’s business offices for Hot Hole Instruments were already located in the village, and it was easier for them to purchase the property than to relocate.

Handy describes Los Alamos as “not a fun place to grow up.” His desire to escape the small town life pushed him to graduate high school early so that he could begin college at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He was only enrolled at UNM for a short time before relocating to attend the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where he finished his bachelor’s degree in broadcast communications in 1990. Handy said that is where his fascination with travel began.

Handy moved to Los Angeles for a short time before returning to Albuquerque to manage an apartment complex purchased by his family. In order to drive sales of the newly acquired apartments, Handy remodeled and filled them with his own handmade furniture so that they would display more attractively for potential buyers. He realized that with the proper interior decorating and photographs, many would simply buy from looking at the photos without even actually seeing the apartments.

After his success in Albuquerque, he moved back to southern California, where he continued flipping houses while attending law school. During his real estate career, Handy said he continued to hear one common question: “Where did you get your display furniture?” Many of the buyers either wanted to buy it or duplicate it for placement in their new home.

His venture in California came to an end with the fall of the real estate market in 2010. Handy decided that with the ailing economy, he wanted to try living abroad for a while. He was soon presented an opportunity to use his law degree in Indonesia, so he decided to give living in Asia a try. Taking a cue from his days in real estate, he used his carpentry skills and love of fine woods to continue designing and creating furniture, something he planned to later turn into a business. Examples of this furniture now reside in the White Rock space that will now primarily be used for storage.

Handy and his family had a plan to stimulate retail business in White Rock by opening the furniture store and an adjacent coffee shop. He searched for a potential local business partner who might join him in bringing life back to the village. He pitched the idea of his furniture store and coffee shop, and the possibility of opening a group of restaurants to several local business owners; but he quickly discovered that few believed a retail operation of that scale in White Rock was a viable venture.

Even without regular business hours, Handy said that he’s received a surprising amount of local interest in his furniture. He said that while this is encouraging, it is still impossible for him to operate the store while living abroad, without a vested local partner. He will continue using the current space in White Rock as a warehouse and for display purposes, but purchases will be conducted through online resources, rather through a physical storefront.

The community will have the unique opportunity from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday to get a glimpse at the store and a closer look at the unique, handmade furniture inside. Handy is conducting what he refers to as a “fire sale” in order to reduce his White Rock inventory at the 118 Longview Drive location. Deliveries can be arranged and future sales will be conducted online through their website (which is currently being completed) at taureanfurniture.com.

-April M. Brown