A few months ago, the landlord at Nancy Newcomb’s furniture store told her the building would soon be sold, leaving her to make yet another major decision.
Over 25 years, Newcomb reinvented the St. Louis Park business, Odds & Ends Furniture, again and again to stay afloat. She sorted through changes in manufacturing, the rise of digital retailing and arrival of new competition.
The pandemic sparked a boomlet in furniture sales as people who were forced to stay at home feathered their nests. But consumers turned a corner, and then inflation hit.
“Furniture sales are slowing down but prices are going up,” Newcomb said. “So the furniture business is in a tough place right now.”
And there was something else.
“I’m 70 years old,” she said. “So it’s time to retire.”
The store, at 5108 Cedar Lake Road, is winding down. A closeout sale is on and the final day looms on June 24.
In 1997, Newcomb was a women’s clothing buyer with connections in the retail world when she learned about the potential in selling slightly damaged furniture at a fraction of its original cost.
She operated as Scratch n’ Dent Furniture Warehouse early on. Then, as manufacturing shifted to China, blemished furnishings became less available from domestic operators.
Around 2002, she renamed the business Odds & Ends and shifted to selling showroom model furniture instead. Newcomb gradually added closeouts and other inventory direct from manufacturers.
She focused on fashion-forward furniture resembling what people were seeing on home decorating TV shows. She kept overhead low to be able to sell at competitive prices. Her marketing strategy relied on relied on customers spreading word about the store.
During its best years in the mid-2000s, sales at Odds & Ends hit $3 million. That changed after the housing bust led to