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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 7, 2019 1 week ago

In Memoriam: Mark Richmond, 1955-2019

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Mark Richmond died May 29 after suffering from a pacemaker-related infection.

Over a decade ago, when Patty Small retired from working as an advertising rep at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, she invited Stephany and Mark Richmond over for dinner.

She had been the advertising rep for their business, The Furniture Warehouse, for years, and they had grown close. At dinner, Small says Mark Richmond told her, “You can’t retire. You’re going to come and help us.” Small took it as a huge compliment. “How could I say no?” she says. “He was the best negotiator I ever met.”

Small helped The Furniture Warehouse with advertising directly and still helps with the company’s ads today. “Stephany and Mark both had so much passion to make that business successful, and they were the ultimate of partners — perfect partners in marriage and in the business world,” Small says.

Mark Richmond died May 29 from an infection related to a pacemaker replacement. He was 63.

Stephany and Mark Richmond started The Furniture Warehouse together in Sarasota in 1988. “Both of us had a big drive and determination to make the business work,” Stephany Richmond says.

One of Mark Richmond’s sons, Morgan, described the company’s first location as a bare bones building with no air conditioning. There was no way his dad could call it “Mark’s Fine Furniture,” so he went with the name The Furniture Warehouse. “It was always an inside joke for him,” says Morgan, who has worked for the company for several years. Mark Richmond is also survived by his son Landon, an artist who lives in Boston.

By 1990, they had expanded The Furniture Warehouse realm to include an old metal building in Venice. “A year later, we decided to splurge and put air conditioning and carpet in the stores,” Stephany says. “That made a big difference.”

The stores took off. Today, the company has 130 employees and five locations, including north Sarasota; south Sarasota; Ellenton; Bradenton; and Port Charlotte, with a sixth expected to reopen in Venice in July after renovations.

Starting the business wasn’t Mark Richmond’s first foray into furniture.

In high school, he worked at a furniture store in Washington, D.C. He was the store’s top salesman during the summer months, Stephany Richmond says, and paid for college by working there. After college, he was a sales rep for a company selling occasional tables. “Mark was a true salesman at heart,” she says.

Stephany grew up in Venice and soon the couple decided to move to Florida. Mark took a job as a sales rep building the territory for a recliner company. But he wanted to spend less time on the road and more time at home with his family, so they opened a retail store.

It was a good fit for Mark, who Stephany says had a knack for making customers feel comfortable. “He was honest when he sold to a customer,” she says. “He would get the customer to talk about themselves and their needs, and he would get a clear picture of what they were looking for. He wasn’t a salesman who would pressure people.”

His philosophy? Never talk about yourself with customers, always talk about them.

“He was very outgoing, charming and charismatic,” Morgan says. “He was able to really bond with the customer.”

Morgan says his father enjoyed helping the community and hosted promotions to encourage customers to give back. If customers brought in cans of food to feed the hungry, they would get a percentage off their purchase. He was involved with Habitat for Humanity, University of South Florida and Temple Sinai in Sarasota, serving as president in 2017 and 2018.

For years, Morgan has been apprenticing with his dad, learning the ins and outs of the business. Morgan says, “He was the best mentor I could have ever asked for.”

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