TAMARAC, Fla. — Top 100 retailer City Furniture is celebrating its golden anniversary. The retailer, which began its existence as Waterbed City, has undergone many changes since its founding by Kevin and Keith Koenig in 1971.
“It’s pretty cool. We started with humble beginnings. My late brother Kevin started a little waterbed store with a few thousand dollars he saved up working his way through college,” CEO Keith Koenig said.
Although Kevin Koenig passed in 2001, the legacy he built lives on and continues to grow through the next generation of family leadership.
“My dad and I have a fun competition,” said Andrew Koenig, Keith’s son and president of the company. “I say we’re going to make you guys look like you opened a lemonade stand. I think we’re raising the bar, and Keith would agree. The bar will continue to be raised by the customers, so we’d better do it or somebody else will.”
Andrew attributed City’s growth over the years to two key tenets. First, he cited the brand’s family spirit. “We really run our business like a family. If you get everybody to buy into a cause, they do great work,” he said.”
Second, it’s the willingness to adapt to the times. “We evolved from waterbeds to home furnishings in 1994. In the 2000s, we heavily invested in product, people and technology systems. We’re very innovative and we keep pushing the ball forward,” he said.
And through it all, leadership pays attention to where it’s been and where it’s going.
“Part of our DNA is remembering where we came from and having that sense of thrift or conservative financial management. The only way we got here is by being careful and reinvesting in our business,” Keith said. “We’ve seen recessions and challenges. We’ve been able to manage through whatever came at us.
“The history of our humble beginnings keeps us careful. We never want to get over our skis or risk too much,” he continued. “At the same time, we have a great opportunity grow, and we want to invest wisely. We have a young, hungry team and the only way to keep everybody challenged is to step up.”
Added Andrew, “We’re forcing ourselves to do scenario planning. I think the Great Recession taught us that further, but we’ve made good financial decisions to maintain a strong balance sheet.
“We pay our vendors on time; we’re financially strong; we don’t get risky,” he continued. “We make big bets, but they’re careful. We’re always paying down our debt fast and making sure we’re prepared for a recession. Throughout the down periods, that’s sometimes when we grow because we’re in a better financial situation when real estate comes available.”
Eye to the future
So with 50 years of successes under its belt, what does the future hold for City Furniture? In the short term, Andrew said, “No. 1, we’re going to have a huge 50th anniversary party with almost 2,000 people. That’s the short term that I’m excited about.”
Taking a longer, second look, the retailer’s president also sees additional growth in City’s future.
“Hopefully, it’s continued growth north and beyond. I hope I can see the customer experience and the value we provide, whether it’s product value or service, taking it to the next level. If we do that right, we’ll continue to be successful,” Andrew said. “Over the next 50 years, we’re going step up for associates and create a better culture for them. They’re the ones who are going to make it happen for us.”
Keith sees a continued emphasis on technology and supply chain improvements as being critical components of the next half century.
“The store of the future will be more tech-enabled and more of an experience while shopping,” he said. “The supply chain of the future will continue to be the right mix of domestic and global manufacturing and collaboration to speed up design and production so what the customer’s needs are can be developed faster and better.”