June 7, 2023
City Center

Photo: Edward Linsmier

City Furniture CEO Andrew Koenig stands in the company's Plant City showroom and warehouse facility, which covers 87 acres and stretches for half a mile.

Economic Backbone: Transportation/Trade/Logistics

City Center

City Furniture's ambitions are built on the wave of growth in Florida.

Vickie Chachere | 5/16/2023

Along a stretch of I-4 some 25 miles east of Tampa and 60 miles west of Orlando, a new City Furniture campus stretches for a half-mile. The 87-acre development that opened late last year features 1.3 million square feet of warehouse space and a nearly 190,000-sq.-ft. two-story showroom, complete with a wine and coffee bar.

The $125-million complex is dwarfed only by the possibilities of the Tamarac-based chain, founded and led by the Koenig family. The company is riding the wave of Florida’s growth, citing the state’s system of ports and highways that allows it to look beyond borders in building the company.

Andrew Koenig — whose father, Keith Koenig, founded City Furniture along with his brother Kevin with a single waterbed store in 1971 — is the 40-year-old CEO. The new Plant City warehouse and showroom is a strategic move for the company as it expands in Florida’s growing urban areas but also looks to expand nationally.

Situated not far from Port Tampa Bay and with easy access to markets to the north via I-75, the red-roofed behemoth of a complex says much about where the company is going. The warehouse alone has 5 million cubic feet of capacity, and the company’s emphasis on cleaner energy and sustainable practices includes a compressed natural gas refueling facility for its delivery trucks. The facility is 50% bigger than what had been City Furniture’s biggest warehouse. When fully staffed, it will employ about 500 people, with wages from $40,000 to $58,000, the company says.

“When we build a building like this, we build for the next 30 years,” says Andrew Koenig. His father, who got his entrepreneurial start selling inexpensive furniture out of a U-Haul to fellow University of Florida students, is the company’s chairman.

The new showroom and distribution center’s location also speaks to the larger advantages of Central Florida in moving goods in a globalized economy. Plant City’s population is projected to increase to more than 71,000 by 2040 from its current population of more than 40,000, with surrounding areas of unincorporated Hillsborough County similarly surging. City officials say more than 4.6 million square feet of business space has been either constructed or is under construction over the past year, with nearly $196 million in capital investment.

One of America’s top 100 furniture retailers, as ranked by the trade publication Furniture Today, City Furniture operates 21 showrooms throughout Florida, as well as 14 Ashley HomeStore showrooms as the brand’s Southeast and Southwest Florida licensee. Andrew Koenig says four additional stores are planned for the Tampa Bay market alone, but the location is a prime jumping off point to future development in Florida’s interior counties and then points north.

The multi-decade vision, Koenig says, is to build City Furniture into a national chain.

During the pandemic, the home-furnishing business boomed as families locked down and converted spaces to accommodate home offices and learning areas and invested in refreshing their décor. The shutdown of China and subsequent supply chain disruptions through 2021 presented challenges to the industry.

City Furniture has a factory — named Kevin Charles Fine Upholstery in honor of the late Kevin Koenig — in New Albany, Miss. Last year, the company invested $6.5 million for its second expansion of the factory in three years with plans to increase employment in the 125,000-sq.-ft. facility to about 200 workers.

But City Furniture relies heavily on overseas production for about two-thirds of its inventory. Koenig — a graduate of Elon University with an MBA from Nova Southeastern who studies the processes and culture of global corporations like Toyota — lights up when talking about global supply chains and the logistics that are the lifeblood of large retailers. China’s troubles have spurred the “nearshoring” of factories to Latin America and plans for “reshoring” to the United States, but Koenig says the issue of international production is complex.

Factory managers were among the first to tour the sprawling new showroom and warehouse, Koenig says. The challenge is in retooling factories, production lines and training the people who run them to produce the consistent quality of the company’s inventory at the right price point. “It’s not as simple as picking up a factory and moving it,” Koenig says.

The company also has embraced the new ways customers shop for furniture — increasingly digital with sophisticated augmented reality tools to “picture” a piece of furniture in a room — along with initiatives to reduce its impact on the environment. City Furniture has pledged to be carbon neutral through its delivery fleet, facilities and large-scale recycling by the year 2040. 

Tags: Transportation, Feature

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