Furniture entrepreneur David Herckis parlayed decades of retail experience to launch a new Midtown concept – smack in the middle of the pandemic in October.
Designer Furniture Outlet was founded by three longtime furniture men in the former Forsyth Fabrics building off Huff Road.
“COVID-19 caused people to spend more time at home and, as a result, they were fixing up their homes. Atlanta did not have a place to buy high-end fine furniture at great prices. This well-known building was available.”
Herckis, who grew up in Savannah, got a degree in industrial engineering/management from Georgia Tech – where he was also a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi – before serving four years in the Air Force. Then he went into management training in furniture at Macy’s. He ultimately landed at Ethan Allen Carriage House, which has six locations, with late father-in-law Ike Feldman.
Another market factor that fortuitously affected the business model was concurrently Neiman Marcus’ filing for bankruptcy and closing their Last Call arm. As a result, Herckis was able to recruit their luxury retail brand staff veterans and brought in the entire team from Neiman’s.
Herckis and partners, through their years in the industry, were able to quickly work arrangements with many prominent factories. The two other partners are: Dan Thomas (and daughter Karen) owner of Townhouse Galleries stores in northern Alabama and Ben White, owner of Summer Classics outdoor furniture, Gabby furniture and Stanford Furniture upholstery company.
Herckis said, “We three were able to see opportunities while many retailers struggled. Many of the factories will not allow us to promote names to prevent market disruption. You have to come in to see what brands we have. We give white glove service and easy delivery. The interior designer community discovered us, and we are doing a large business with them.”
Again pointing to the pandemic, DFO dedicates a huge space to the outdoor driven market. The building is 15,000 square feet, and customers are driving from Florida because they can leave with product versus waiting for orders which these days can be backed up. In addition to outdoor and indoor assortment, DFO has decorative accessories, lamps and rugs with the back wall perimeters lined with bolts of upholstery. Herckis relates, “For $5 to $10 a yard, you can walk away with a top-of -the-line fabric like Summer Classics.”
Herckis shares trends coming forth more prominently as a result of the pandemic:
• Casual versus formal furniture with the emphasis on function and comfort.
• Outdoor furniture has evolved into a major category. Atlanta has a climate that is pretty much year-round for outdoors. And think about COVID safety. Modular sectionals are popular because they allow the consumer to change the configuration.
• Wood finishes are in light colors, light gray being the dominant color. Fabric colors are also very muted light colors. The advent of ‘performance’ fabrics that don’t stain and easily clean make it easy for families with children to use these light neutral colors.
• Machine-made rugs that are well made with good fibers are much cheaper than the old hand knotted. Very little demand exists anymore for true oriental rugs.
• Lamps are a big selling category. Brass and lucite lamps are popular for their clean transitional look.
• In high-end furniture, the interior designers are playing a much bigger role than ever before. People are using them more for guidance and creativity and realize that designers can really make a positive difference.
“Bottom line: Everything is available for immediate delivery and customers love the instant gratification,” according to Herckis.
DFO uploads Facebook and Instagram photos regularly to show new stock. It is located at 1190 Foster Street, NW, off Howell Mill Road.