CHESHIRE — Fred Reich was 19 when he opened the Furniture Barn in 1966. At 72 years old, faced with a changing and more challenging market, he is closing the business after more than half a century.
“We’re going to try to enjoy the fruits of our labor,” Reich said of he and his wife, Sylvia.
The town’s last independent furniture store, located on West Main Street, will close by July 1 and is discounting its remaining stock. Fred Reich is working with potential buyers for the building.
On Friday items were tagged with markdown prices. A grandfather clock priced at more than $26,000 was around $17,000.
Markdowns drew Bob and Doris Worrell of Bethany, who had bought a sofa and loveseat 20 year ago from Furniture Barn. They were sad to hear the store was closing.
“These days, young people are not interested in quality. They want to change their décor all the time,” Doris Worrell said. “They’re not interested in things that last, and this is where you get things that last.”
Fred Reich said that people are also increasingly shopping online and are satisfied with inexpensive furniture made overseas.
When he started, nearly everything in the store was made in New England. Later production moved south but now is mostly in Asia.
“There isn’t a market for this type of business anymore,” he said. “We don’t fit in any longer to where (customers) want to shop.”
He’d considered selling the business but thinks it’s unlikely anyone with the necessary capital would buy the store.
Fred Reich’s father also owned a furniture store.
“I was selling furniture when I was 13 years old,” Fred Reich said.
He bought a furniture store at age 18 but later closed it. The Cheshire location was his second venture after the West Main Street building became available.
The Reichs did three major expansions, the largest in 1991 when a second story was added.
The building is now 24,000 square feet.
Jerry Sitko, town economic development coordinator, expects redevelopment or reuse of the property, which is close to the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail.
“It’s a hard thing to hear about,” Sitko said. “For years that business anchored those businesses out on West Main Street.”
Fred Reich said he’s been getting well-wishers and even letters. On Friday he showed a letter from a woman who bought furniture years ago, thanking him for his caring and service.
“They don’t send mail here, they send it to my home,” Fred Reich said.