A family-run furniture store that was a fixture in Blumenort for three decades has relocated to Vita, where owners say there’s an underserviced market about to boom.
M&R Furniture will open its doors at 201 Railway Avenue in Vita on Monday, April 5.
Mike and Marlene Green own and operate the store, which for many years was located along Centre Avenue in Blumenort.
Last fall, a combination of COVID-19 retail restrictions and a chronic lack of floor space prompted the Greens to put the Blumenort building up for sale. It sold within days and they had to scramble to clear out inventory.
The business closed for a few months while the Greens began renovating a vacant building in Vita that they had purchased two years ago. Situated in the heart of the town’s commercial district, it was the former home of Horobec Foods and, before that, Vita Co-op. With a large warehouse attached to the store, the Greens now have 2,000 more square feet in which to work.
In January, Mike retired from Wm. Dyck & Sons in Niverville, where he had worked for 42 years. In a Monday interview, he said he looks forward to running the furniture store full-time after years of evenings and weekend work shoehorned in around his day job. The store will be open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Renovations continued through winter, with help from the couple’s four sons. The interior of the building was gutted. Curling floor tiles were scraped off and a new furnace and light fixtures were installed. Pine paneling was added to give the store a rustic look. And these days, no store is complete without the obligatory hand sanitizing station at the front entrance.
"I guess we’re kind of bucking the trend, opening a business right now," Mike mused.
Thankfully, the Greens aren’t starting from scratch. The store has built up a loyal customer base from its time in Blumenort. Mike said residents of Vita have already made them feel welcome.
The store may have moved 60 kilometres south, but the Greens’ business philosophy hasn’t changed.
"We look at this as a mom-and-pop shop. That’s us. It’s always been us," Mike said.
M&R Furniture—the ‘R’ is a holdover from an old business partner—carries a wide range of bedroom, kitchen, living room, and garden furnishings, as well as t-shirts, gloves, yarn, towels, linens, and signs.
Over the years, the business "just grew and grew," Mike said.
"We sell hundreds of pieces a year now."
In addition to new furnishings sourced from suppliers, M&R also carries bookshelves, picnic tables, arbors, and benches that Mike makes himself.
They’ve mostly gotten out of the used market, which is now dominated by online classifieds and local buy-and-sell groups.
"The whole used furniture market has really changed over the last three decades," Mike said.
Marlene stains the items that Mike builds. She is also a talented crocheter whose colourful baby blankets, washcloths, and stuffed animals are for sale at the store.
Marlene said she was nine when her mother taught her how to crochet. Her hooks have seldom been idle since.
"I like to crochet any chance I get," she said.
Marlene said she hopes the store’s yarn selection will save many local seniors a trip to Steinbach.
"We have a lot of knitters and crafters around here."
Mike said he plans to expand the store’s hardware offerings to include wheelbarrows and other items. Marlene noted there’s currently nowhere in town to buy a fastener on a Saturday.
During the pandemic, demand for patio furnishings has exploded as people look for safer ways to gather.
"That’s basically what carried us through," Mike said.
Fire pit and picnic table orders from local campgrounds are another source of revenue for the store.
Mike said he and Marlene pored over traffic counts, population statistics, and development trends before deciding to move the store to Vita.
"We did our homework a bit," Mike said. "The whole area is underserviced."
After buying the building, they held a one-off warehouse sale in September 2019 to gauge local interest. Sales were strong and people kept approaching them to ask when the store was opening.
Mike is convinced that the RM of Stuartburn is on the brink of a development boom.
"I just think that this community is going to be growing in the next decade," he said.
The new location entails a shorter commute for the Greens, who have been married 34 years. They reside on 80 acres south of Gardenton—plenty of space for their seven grandchildren to run around on.