What happens when an entrepreneur asks a simple question or two on vacation? In the case of Larry Walker, a booming business is born.
“We were on a family vacation in Orlando in 2004, just sitting by the pool with the grand kids,” Walker said. “These guys came out and told me we would have to leave while they replaced all of the pool furniture with new pool furniture.”
“I asked him why they were doing that since the ‘old’ furniture looked almost brand new,” he said. “The man told me they replace all of the furniture, inside and out, every two to three years, and sell it to liquidators. He then asked me who I was and why I was asking him so many questions. I told him I was ‘Larry the Liquidator’.”
Walker, who was an advertising sales executive in Savannah at the time, said he went to work the following Monday and turned in his resignation.
“As soon as I resigned, I opened Liquidation Station, a furniture store specializing in the sale of liquidated furniture from resorts and time-shares,” Walker said.
Now, Liquidation Station has four storefront locations – Savannah, Pooler, Hinesville, and Statesboro – selling new and used furniture.
Walker’s son-in-law, Jeff Johnson, operates the Statesboro location that he and his wife own. Last September, Johnson moved his Statesboro storefront to Ogeechee Crossing, a recently constructed shopping center on Highway 301 South.
Johnson said the move has given his business much needed visibility.
“Before, when we operated out of the warehouse behind Ogeechee Tech, we did a great business, but most people had no idea that we were there,” Johnson said. “The move has made all of the difference in the world.”
Metter resident, Sylvia Cartee, is a repeat customer of Johnson’s. Cartee said the name Liquidation Station piqued her curiosity, and she just had to see what kind of a business it was.
“I saw his storefront sign one day as I was driving down Highway 301,” Cartee said. “I couldn’t imagine what was in there. The first time I went in, I bought something. Now, I buy furniture from Jeff all of the time.”
Cartee said she doesn’t mind that the furniture has been used.
“If you have kids, then you know after a couple of weeks your new furniture is going to have some wear and tear,” she said. “To me, it really isn’t that big of a deal. Jeff’s prices are unusually good as well as his quality.”
Walker said 70 percent of his furniture comes from Orlando – specifically Disney properties and Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott time-shares.
“These properties have to buy high quality furniture because it has to be able to take the wear and tear,” he said. “This is heavy duty furniture that really is nice. I love being able to sell good furniture to people at a great price.”
Johnson said their slogan for success is very simple, “We buy cheap and we sell cheap.”
“If I can’t buy it at a really great price, then I just won’t buy it,” he said. “We have to be able to turn around and sell it at a really good price. We want the furniture to move, not sit here on the showroom floor.”
Johnson keeps one sample of each item on display. The remainder of his Statesboro inventory is stored in a warehouse behind Ogeechee Technical College on Kennedy Boulevard.
“Since we buy rooms of furniture from resorts and time-shares, we have a number of the same pieces,” Johnson said. “I only keep one of each on display. As soon as it sells, we bring another one out.”
Johnson said all of the furniture that he and his father-in-law purchase goes to the Savannah warehouse before it is redistributed to the other stores. Johnson said the Statesboro store receives two truckloads of furniture a week.
“We sell that much,” he said. “I would imagine that most people think our clients are mainly university students, but they are not. Surprisingly, most of our customers come from the surrounding communities like Claxton and Glennville.”
Johnson said his base of business is continuing to increase since opening in Statesboro in 2004.
“We are beginning to get business from property managers and our university business is really picking up, particularly in the months of July and August,” he said. “It’s hard work, like anything else, you have to get out and sell it, but we are really doing well.”
Walker said he is selling 100 tractor trailer loads of used furniture per year and over 30 of new furniture and new bedding.
“I guess you could say our business has kind of exploded,” he said. “I guess that’s a good thing.”