Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Army of Northern Virginia
2011 Swagger Wagon
bikes with pedals
Living in the Mid-Atlantic and looking for good furniture? Suggestion:
My wife an I have been looking for a bedroom set off and on for the last 18 months or so (my generous in-laws are purchasing it for us as our wedding gift). We've been to a number of stores but typically found that we either didn't care for the style available or the quality was crap (stapled and glued). We weren't sure where to go...
I then read this article a while ago:
Piled in a Warehouse, Your Perfect 8-by-10
Mountains of Bargains On Rugs and Furniture, But You Have to Drive To Farmville to Find Them
By Jura Koncius
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 14, 2006; H01
FARMVILLE, Va. When it hit 105 degrees last month in Building 7, one of the former tobacco warehouses that make up Green Front Furniture, owner Dick Cralle declared a one-day Heat Stroke Sale.
Regular customers driving three hours south from Washington ISO deals and steals are not surprised that Cralle's sprawl of no-frills buildings has no air conditioning in August -- or heat in January. That's one reason the prices of high-end sofas, beds, tables, lamps and mirrors are so low. So on this August afternoon, sweaty shoppers flipped through thousands of Persian and Indian Oriental rugs, grateful to get an extra 20 percent off at one of Virginia's quirkiest retail emporiums.
Part treasure hunt, part souk, Green Front is a 700,000-square-foot trove of home furnishings you might find out about from a Richmond law firm partner, an interior designer from Williamsburg or the neighbor you saw lugging a Tibetan rug out of her SUV.
"It takes a whole day to go there," says Chevy Chase designer Carolyn Wilson, who arrives with paint chips and fabric swatches. "But the bargains are fabulous." Parking meters cost 10 cents for two hours.
The operation began 40 years ago, when Cralle, fresh out of college, started buying up abandoned department stores, historic warehouses and gas stations on Main Street in this once-thriving tobacco town remembered by many for its defiant resistance to school integration.
Over the years, Cralle's real estate empire has turned Main Street into a tourist attraction for shoppers attracted by discounted chintz club chairs, leather recliners and washed-pine breakfronts -- as well as just the right Heriz, Ousak or needlepoint rug to put them on. Ten years ago, Cralle opened a much smaller (40,000 square feet) satellite Green Front in Sterling, and later another offshoot in Raleigh.
In Farmville, Cralle has stuffed his 14 sales buildings with rugs, dining tables, pillows and chandeliers. Rugs make up about 35 percent of the operation's sales, but they are the main attraction for many customers within a 500-mile radius. Cralle says his discounts are 40 to 50 percent off what he calls "usual retail price" because he and his buyers go directly to global rug weavers, to broadloom mills in Georgia and to furniture makers in North Carolina -- and pay cash.
His overhead is notoriously low. The 90 employees wear shorts in the summer and coats in the winter. There is no catalogue or online buying, no evening or Sunday hours. Forget carefully staged room settings. Here, burlap bales of rugs clog the aisles, and insulation sticks out of the walls. In the infamous Rummage Pile, hundreds of 2-by-3-foot or 3-by-5-foot Orientals are priced at $30 to $100 and tossed in a Filene's Basement-style jumble.
Is this any way to run a $62 million business?
On this August day in Farmville (population 6,845), sofas are causing traffic jams on the sidewalks. Customers are pawing through $99 wool leopard-print carpet remnants rolled up in the 19th-century tobacco-curing barn, now Building 1A. Nineteen containers of furniture from Vietnam are being unloaded in front of Building 8. "We unpack things right out in the street," says Cralle (pronounced Crawley). "We're different."
A good buy in Building 9 features 500 Maitland-Smith dining room chairs that could retail for $750, sold here at $179 to $299. A hand-lettered poster heralds the arrival this fall of 22 containers of furniture originally manufactured for the fancy Williams-Sonoma Home catalogue. Green Front snagged the Philippines-made ebony Shaker-style desks ($2,400, now $699) and maple beds ($1,900, now $529) when the order could not be produced in time for the national chain.
Mary Strosnider was examining rugs a salesman had spread on a side street in the blazing sun. She has made the three-hour drive from Stephens City, Va., many times, and was looking at a 9-by-12-foot Indian Oriental for $429 for her family room -- "The only room left that needs one."
Decorators flock to the Wilton, Berber and Axminster carpeting by Stanton, Shaw and Mohawk. A rug can be custom cut: A 9-by-12 goes for about $349. If it's not too busy, the on-site workroom will bind it while you go have lunch.
The place can get to you. Heather Nelson from Salem, Va., was in the basement of Building 10, wandering through acres of wicker and wrought iron, a glazed look in her eyes. She says winding through the maze is "part of the adventure." First-time visitors can end up with "Oriental Overload," that blinding sensation that you can't look at another rug without screaming. They often show up at the information desk pleading, "Can you tell me how this place works?" A map is produced.
It's not unusual to see license plates from South Carolina and Delaware, or diplomat plates from the District. A couple from Brazil stayed three days. (Green Front ships all over the world.) Some customers fly private jets to the tiny Farmville airport, where Cralle picks them up in a truck or a Cadillac, "depending on what's around."
The operation has a strict, no-return policy on almost everything: Rugs must be exchanged within 30 days. For a flat fee of $125, a Green Front truck will deliver your purchase to the Washington area, whether it's a single chair or five rooms of furniture.
Cralle, 65, is the fifth generation in his family to grow up in Farmville. His father, Richard Sr., was in the grocery business and ran a small home-furnishings store. After graduation from Hampden-Sydney College in 1965, Cralle decided to try the furniture and rug business. Soon he was flying to India and setting up contacts around the world. Today, he is nationally known for his retail and wholesale operations. His best seller is a 9-by-12 handmade Indian rug selling for $595 to $2,100.
At the Sterling location, in a former electrical warehouse, customers get a taste of the Farmville experience. Dina D'Archangelo of McLean was there last week with her parents, looking for a hall chest. "I came with a Turkish rug dealer once. He was blown away by the selection." What about the ambience? "If you want plush, you can spend three times as much at a store in McLean."
© 2006 The Washington Post Company
CNs: 700,000 sq ft (18+ football fields) of high-end furniture at deep discounts in Farmville VA.
The company website is: http://www.greenfront.com/index.html
Now, all that said, despite the discount, the furniture is not ikea cheap. We're mostly talking about dining room sets that once went for $7k and are now half off, beds that are $1300 alone, etc... BUT, there are exceptions to be found and great bargins to be had. And if you're willing to drop the coin on high-end stuff, it's the right place to go.
It's a nice drive into the country and the town of Farmville is a decent place to spend a day. Walker's Diner (a TINY place) is a great place to get two burgers, two fries, two milkshakes and two cokes all for <$10... Similar local eating bargins abound.
It will take a good 4+ hours to go through all the greenfront stores, although I'm sure you can take longer if need be. It'll also be tiring, too.
FWIW, the fall seems like a good time to go since none of the buildings have climate control or heat...
Anyhow, we finally found a bedroom set and I figured I'd pass along the tip...