Iverson’s Furniture in Sarasota, Florida, Celebrates 60th Anniversary
In 1957, Elvis Presley purchased Graceland for $102,500; Perry Mason and Maverick enjoyed their first season on television; the Soviet Union launched the first Earth-orbiting space satellite, Sputnik I; the Milwaukee Braves defeated the New York Yankees in the World Series; and Around the World in 80 Days won the Oscar for Best Picture. And in Sarasota, Florida, then a sleepy coastal community of fewer than 70,000 people, Iverson’s Furniture opened its doors.
Then known as The Bee Ridge Thrift House, the furniture consignment shop opened at 2223 Bee Ridge Road just east of U.S. 41, a location it occupies to this day. The second store at 3224 Clark Road, east of Lockwood Ridge Road, opened in 1981.
“We’re the oldest furniture consignment store in Sarasota,” says manager Barry Wigglesworth, grandson of founders Hal and Cheryl Iverson. “There were just a handful of furniture consignment stores then; now there are around two dozen,” he continues. “Over the years we have seen a number of stores come and go, and we’re still here. We must be doing something right.”
Hal and Cheryl Iverson opened the store shortly after moving to Sarasota from Lakefield, Minnesota. Tired of the brutal Minnesota winters, they loaded a U-Haul truck and headed to Sarasota with their three kids – Rick, Mari and Dani – and the family dog.
Life was slower then. The Iverson children would congregate at the store after school. On Friday nights, they would walk across U.S. 41 to Brown’s Bounce and pay to jump on the trampoline. For dinner, the family often walked a few doors down to eat at Saunders Fish Market or took a short drive to Walt’s Fish Market. The interstate did not exist, nor did many of Sarasota’s landmarks, like the Van Wezel and the Sarasota Ballet. People could park their cars on the shoulders of the road in front of Siesta Key Beach, go hog hunting on Palmer Ranch, or ride their horses on Bee Ridge Road, which was then a two-lane road.
A major milestone for the store was the purchase of the family’s first van. Before then, they had to drag a homemade wooden cart behind their station wagon to pick up and deliver furniture. “We’re one of only a few consignment stores to have our own pick-up and delivery service,” Barry says.
In 1968, the business was passed on to Barry’s uncle Rick and his wife, Evelyn. When Rick died in a car accident in 1976, Barry’s mother, Mari Morton, took over the family business at the age of 27.
Mari soon put her own stamp on the store, gaining a reputation for quality high-end used furniture. She completely remodeled the store and switched the focus from antiques to modern furniture and accessories. She opened the second store on Clark Road a few years later. Although Mari is still active in the business, Barry now handles the day-to-day operation of both stores. He joined the family business permanently in the early 1990s, after graduating from the University of South Florida in Tampa. He has seen many changes himself.
“When I went off to college, the store did not accept credit cards,” he remembers. “When I returned from college, the majority of our customers were paying with credit.”
Iverson’s Furniture was one of the first to launch a website, and many customers now browse the photo gallery online before purchasing furniture. The longevity of the business has helped to place them at the top of the search engines. “We’ve had customers buy the furniture online while they were still up north, then have it delivered when they arrived in Sarasota,” Barry says. The advent of email has enabled potential consignors to email photos of their furniture. “Before that we would drive around all day looking at people’s furniture,” Barry recalls.
Barry attributes the stores’ success to providing quality used furniture for a fraction of what it would cost new. Much of the furniture is barely used. The stores obtain a lot of their merchandise from the area’s very transient population, as well as from model homes, estates and decorator showrooms. About 75 to 80 percent of the business is consignment. The family takes pride not only in the longevity of the business, but in the longevity of its employees. The fulltime employees have been with Iverson’s Furniture for 12 years to 25 years, Barry says.
Iverson’s Furniture buys, sells and consigns furniture and accessories, and offers appraisals and staging services. “We buy one piece or the entire houseful,” says Mari Morton. “We’ll pick it up, move it out and hand you a check. We make it easy.”
With new merchandise arriving daily, Iverson’s Furniture is always a shopping adventure. For a preview of Iverson’s collection, please visit www.IversonsFurniture.com. The Bee Ridge store can be reached at (941) 924-8355. The Clark Road store can be reached at (941) 922-1842.
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For more information about Iverson’s Furniture, please contact Linda Thomas of Thomas & Brannan Communications at (941) 321-3345.