Business

A new era in Oak Harbor furniture

Janice Fisher relaxes in a couch in Furniture World. For 42-years, she owned the store, then called the Bargain Center, with her husband Ron.  - Jim Larsen/Whidbey News-Times
Janice Fisher relaxes in a couch in Furniture World. For 42-years, she owned the store, then called the Bargain Center, with her husband Ron.
— image credit: Jim Larsen/Whidbey News-Times

After 42-years selling furniture, Janice Fischer deserves a chance to sit on a couch and just relax for a while.

Fischer recently sold her Bargain Center business located just outside the main gate of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station on Ault Field Road.

The big building still features gaudy furniture sale signs, and there’s even a big balloon on top as the new owner advertises the new name, “Furniture World,” but it it will take a while for many Oak Harbor residents to stop calling it the Bargain Center.

Janice’s husband, Ron Fischer, started the family in the furniture business when he was about to leave the Navy in 1967. With a year to go on his first enlistment, he went to work at a small, used furniture store and found that he enjoyed sales.

“After a couple of years we decided to buy the business,” Janice said. “It worked out very well.” She smiled when describing the purchase transaction. “Ron alway said it was the last deal in America made on a handshake,” she said.

A Navy man himself, Ron had a soft spot in his heart for young Navy families. He soon brought in new furniture, specializing in what Janice describes as “moderately priced furniture for young Navy families.”

In the early ‘80s, the Fischer family purchased the building, which boasts 26,000 square feet of space. Janice took some time away from the business to raise their two sons, Robert and David, but went back to selling furniture in 1986. An “unofficial foster son,” Gerry, was added to the family.

The business became a true family affair, involving Ron, Janice, their son David and his wife Alison. Unfortunately, Ron passed away in 2003 and Janice obviously still misses him, as do many customers.

“My husband had special feelings for those young families. Sometimes he probably gave them too good a deal,” she said wistfully. “Many still ask for Ron, ‘the good bargain man’. He was a good worker, a very good businessman.”

In a down economy, it took a year and a half to find a buyer for the business, but Janice is thrilled with the new ownership. “I’m very confident they’ll run it the same way we did,” she said.

For anyone going into business, Janice has some basic advice based on her decades of experience: “Be good to your customers and give them good service.”

New owner Jeff Raymond, Jr., promises to do just that. He also owns a couple of Furniture World stores in the Marysville area. He has already upgraded the interior of the Oak Harbor store and brought in truckloads of new furniture. Boldly lettered signs, including the big balloon, urge people to come inside and check out the bargains.

Raymond admits he took a risk in buying a business in tough economic times, but he said his reception has been “great” since Furniture World opened for business last month.

“My thinking on opening in tough times is that if you can make it now, you can make it forever,” Raymond said. He hired Steve Loeffler as store manager.

Janice still makes herself at home in the store, but she’s out of the sales business. She foresees a lot of yard work in her future and travel to California to visit grandchildren. And she wants all her former customers to know how much she enjoyed her years selling furniture to them.

“We’re very grateful,” she said. “We also had customers from South Whidbey and Skagit County. We prided ourselves on good customer service and fair prices, and we loved our customers.”

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