The featured style in Robb & Stucky’s glossy 2019 winter catalogue is called Modern Beach House. The luxury home furnishings and interior design company creates this contemporary style and others seamlessly, although individual pieces come from manufacturers across the U.S. as well as Asia. Before each product is given a “white glove” inspection and finally shipped out to showrooms in South Florida and to home- owners anywhere in the world, it all comes through the company’s new 125,000-square-foot distribution center and corporate headquarters off Lee Road in South Fort Myers.
“It’s the whole kit and caboodle,” said distribution manager Keith Fraser one morning in late January, after solving an issue with a large glass table-top that had failed to fit in someone’s elevator. “Everything from the whole company rolls in to this building.”
“People are the key to the company’s success,” said the company’s president and CFO Eric Chien. “I’m very grateful — from the store manager to the janitor, without a great team there’s no such thing as growth or success.”
The furniture retailer was created by Virgil Robb and W.R. Lee in 1915 and joined by Harry Stucky in 1917. Clive Lubner bought the company in 1979 and built it into a $274 million business, along with his son Dan, but the Great Recession hit hard. Its long-time lender, Bank of America, ultimately refused to assist the company, forcing it in to bankruptcy. At its peak, Robb & Stucky had about 1,300 employees, and 30 showrooms in Florida, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada and Costa Rica.
In 2011, a new Robb & Stucky was formed when Samuel Kuo, founder and CEO of Samson Holding Ltd., purchased the brand and intellectual properties. The “new-old” Robb & Stucky, as its current president Eric Chien called it, opened its first showroom in 2012 in Fort Myers. It has opened four more since in Naples, Sarasota, Coral Gables and Boca Raton.
Robb & Stucky’s leadership touts the company’s roots, but is pushing forward in new directions as well. “We are a new-old company,” Mr. Chien said. “So our challenge is to tell people how we are new and how we are old.” Furniture sits on shelves waiting to be shipped at one of the new facility’s 34 truck bays. For one, the company no longer sells Thomas Edison’s phonograph. Its old blonde brick 1926 building, though no longer affiliated, still sits downtown on Hendry Street.
More than that, it has expanded its price point and product assortment. While it still sells luxury furniture at the highest price point, it offers relatively affordable pieces as well. “We still want to cater to the same clientele the old Robb & Stucky catered to,” distribution manager Mr. Fraser said. “But it’s not just the higher end. Now we want to sell anyone a piece of furniture. Now we’re trying to put our minds together and hopefully create a better company for everyone.”
Sofas, for instance, may range from about $1,999 to $14,999, said Mark Stuart, the company’s vice president of merchandising in charge of product and visual design. Individual pieces are sourced globally.
“So let’s say if there’s wood involved in a dresser, for instance, maybe that is sourced from Vietnam,” Mr. Stuart said. “If there’s metal involved oftentimes the metal legs come from China. We also have a lot of things that are American-made products. I would say 80 percent of the upholstery is still made in the United States (mostly in North Carolina).”
Next, the company is looking to open a showroom in West Palm Beach or Palm Beach Gardens, before looking at locations in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa. Long term it is looking at opening stores outside the U.S.
“Our customers from Canada are telling us ‘you should open a store in Canada,’” Mr. Chien said, possibly in Toronto or Vancouver.