New Furniture Connection center to keep jobs in Clarksville
August 31, 2011 10:36 am
David Berggren says he isn’t going to let local jobs slip out of Clarksville. To that end, the owner of Furniture Connection is opening a 60,000-square-foot distribution center at the Clarksville-Montgomery County Corporate Business Park in January.
At the site near Interstate 24, Berggren took part in a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning. The crowd under a white canopy included Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan and Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers in the front row.
Wearing a yellow shirt with the Furniture Connection logo embroidered above the pocket, Berggren spoke to the assembled group of 60 to 70 people. He explained that, despite the economic tsunami of recent years, business has been robust at his Furniture Connection store on Fort Campbell Boulevard and at the newer concept store, Furnish 123, opened last fall at 2139 Lowes Drive.
“We’ve decided not to participate in the recession,” Berggren said, drawing laughter.
Following Berggren’s words, both mayors and a group of other local luminaries and business associates broke ground with shovels.
James Chavez, president and CEO of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Economic Development Council, said, “Our charge is to grow the economy, and this project in production is a fine start.”
Bowers said, “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the people in our community because it will ... keep the jobs in Clarksville rather than moving them to Nashville.”
The groundbreaking ceremony was just the beginning for Berggren, who has big expansion plans for his business. These involve opening more Furnish 123 stores, a franchise of Ashley Furniture Industries, throughout Middle Tennessee. The Furnish 123 concept just hit the U.S. market in February 2010, and is an affordable furniture line targeted at a younger generation of shoppers. Berggren said the Furnish 123 concept he opened at Lowes Drive “outperformed by double what we expected it to do.”
Berggren will open his next Furnish 123 in Nashville on Oct. 1. The distribution center will be fully operational in January and will generate 20 jobs.
“Clarksville’s been good to me,” Berggren said. “We want to keep our jobs and tax base in Clarksville. I could have opened in Robertson or Davidson County.”
Berggren said through the city of Clarksville he got help finding the land and received tax incentives. Being right off Interstate 24 was the determining factor in choosing the Corporate Business Park location. Berggren said the handy spot shaves off the additional 30 minutes in travel time it would take to reach Fort Campbell Boulevard, where his current warehouse is located.
The 30,000-square-foot building is expandable to 250,000 square feet. Berggren’s business currently employs 20 workers at the distribution center and between 40 an 45 employees total. When the business is fully expanded, Berggren said, that total number could reach 100.
A 20-year veteran of the military, Berggren retired as a noncommissioned officer with the title of command sergeant major for the 3rd Battalion of the 320th Field Artillery Regiment. He founded Furniture Connection in 1999, but it was during the years of his job as an Army recruiter in Mississippi, from 1992 to 1995, that he visited a store and formed the kernel of his business idea. Since he generated 50 percent of the recruits in an office of four recruiters, he reasoned that “he had he ability to get things done.” With this vision, he studied business classes in college.
A driver for the success of his Furniture Connection store is that everything is in stock for same-day delivery. “I think same-day delivery has a lot of challenges that a lot of retailers are not able to meet,” Berggren said.
The new distribution center will allow his stores to stock more product to ensure they don’t run out of inventory. “With our old facility we have to be careful with what we order,” he said.
Berggren is pleased with the success of the Ashley Furniture’s Furnish 123 concept. “So whenever we expand, we don’t think we’ll have to deal with the economic downturn,” he said. “And I’ve been very fortunate to recruit good people.”
With dozens of potential new job openings, recruiting is going to be a big part of the business for Berggren for years to come.