Upscale hotel to replace the Raymond Rowe building on Broadway
The end of an era is near for Raymond Rowe Furniture, with the retailer that has been a fixture in downtown Columbus for nearly 74 years preparing to close following a liquidation that begins with a “sneak preview” sale for longtime customers on Thursday.
“We are closing our doors forever” and “It’s truly the end of an era” punctuated a circular mailed recently to customers for what the store is billing as a “historic” going-out-of-business sale.
“It’s just very bittersweet,” Randall Rowe, vice president of Raymond Rowe furniture and the great-grandchild of founder Raymond Alexander Rowe, said Wednesday. “It’s just time for us. We’ve been around as long as we have because we’ve had a very loyal customer base. It’s been a blessing, and the furniture store has been good to a lot of people.”
While the “sneak preview” event for past customers will offer special discounts, Rowe said the primary liquidation sale to everyone will begin in earnest soon, with state law requiring it to be completed within 90 days.
“We have a lot of furniture to move,” he said. “We’re stocked. We always have been. There’s lots of good deals on a lot of good furniture.”
The closing of Raymond Rowe Furniture at 1225 Broadway follows the sale of the property in December to Columbus-based RAM Hotels, which plans to tear down the structure and construct a 106-room AC Hotel on the site. The hotel company paid $1.65 million for the property, according to city tax records.
RAM Hotels also bought the adjacent 1231 Broadway building that is now home to the Golf Gallery, paying $925,000, then turned around and sold it it other investors. Rowe said he and golf pro Larry Strickland are looking to relocate the golf store elsewhere in the city in the coming weeks.
“We’re in the process of doing that, hopefully by the spring,” he said. “We’ve got all kinds of options we’re looking at. We haven’t really nailed anything down yet.”
It was in 1943 that Randall Rowe’s great-grandfather opened his first store at the corner of 11th Street and Front Avenue after selling furniture out of the back of a truck. The business would relocate to the 1225 Broadway location in 1969, which Randall Rowe said was the site of a Sears department store before its move to Columbus Square Mall.
The business added the 1200 Broadway location in 1976, giving Raymond Rowe Furniture two buildings and several floors of furnishings, making it one of the largest such retail outlets in the state. The combined floor space in the two locations topped 100,000 square feet.
The 1200 store was closed in 2008 amid the Great Recession and sat vacant until being sold to Mama Uptown LLC in 2015 for $825,000. Big Dog Running Co. operates a retail store on the ground floor now.
Through all of the changes, property sales and economic cycles, Raymond Rowe Furniture remained a key piece of the downtown retail scene. “We’re not about to go out of business. We’re just trying to get better at what we do,” said Randy Rowe, Randall’s father, as the 1200 Broadway store was being shuttered in 2008.
Aside from Raymond and Randy, family ownership through the years has included Randall’s grandparents, Ray and Helen Rowe, and two aunts. That group of people sold loads of sofas, sectionals, tables, chairs, loveseats, desks, chests, beds and bedding through the years.
“It’s definitely historic to have a business do this well and last this long,” said Randall Rowe on Wednesday, acknowledging the increasing pressure felt by the retailer following the recession.
“It’s just a changing market with all of the chains in Columbus, and that’s probably put more pressure on us than anything,” he said. “We’ve got the most loyal customers in the world. But that (chain stores) has probably been the biggest challenge.”