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St. Michel expands

By Staff | Aug 9, 2013

Pictured is the new St. Michel Furniture in Bemidji,Minn. Owner Rob St. Michel opened his store in Rugby in 1997, and now has four stores, including outlets in Bottineau and Devils Lake.

When Rob St. Michel was working at KBTO Radio in Bottineau, he got a piece of career advice from the station’s engineer.

“When I had the opportunity to manage Nelson’s Furniture in Rugby in 1987, I didn’t want to do it,” St. Michel said. “I wanted to stay with my job. He basically said you can get a job like this any time. You need to take this opportunity.”

More than 25 years later, St. Michel, whose business is based out of Rugby, recently opened his fourth furniture store, which is in Bemidji, Minn.

St. Michel’s business has evolved slowly. He opened his Rugby store in 1997, opening another two years later in Bottineau. In 2003, he added a store in Devils Lake before expanding to Bemidji, which he said will be his last store.

“I’ve probably been looking to expand for about two years,” St. Michel said. “I was looking to expand in North Dakota. There were some towns I looked at and there were some possibilities. This past January, I was looking for some pallet racking for my warehouse. I asked around and was told of a store in Bemidji that was going out of business that might have some for sale.”

A trip to Bemidji opened up the idea of opening in the location where the old store had closed.

“We’re not the same store that was there,” he said. “The store that was there was a little higher end. We’re medium price point, probably a little more affordable furniture than that other store was. I think they’ll appreciate it more. We sell to more of the population.

“I always say in our store, we don’t do the bottom 10 percent or the top 10 percent, we try for the 80 in between.”

Although he originally wanted to open another store in North Dakota, St. Michel said the community is very similar to his locations in-state.

“It has all of the same things we’re used to doing business in,” he said. “A regional center, farming community. It has the lake homes and has city and country people and has (Native American) reservations. That’s what we’re used to dealing with so that’s why it was such a good fit for us.”

St. Michel’s son Ethan is running the store and has been living in Bemidji since June, making preparations for the opening.

The store is his most expansive, larger than the Devils Lake store he remodeled in 2008 and four times as big as the Rugby store.

St. Michel said he’s got a lot of help from people over the years to expand his business, and he hopes he’s learned from being in business for more than 15 years.

“It’s going to help us with our buying,” he said. “It already has. It’s become such a container industry. We used to struggle along buying 2-3 containers of chairs a year, now we’ll buy 5 or 6. It’ll make everything just flow so much better for all of our stores.

“It’s very exciting. It’s nice to get to a point where you can, where you have the ability to expand, and hopefully you’ve gained the knowledge over the years to know whether it’s a good deal or not. I’m hoping that I’ve figured that out. I guess time will tell.”

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