According to Webster's Thesaurus, the word "fine" brings to mind a variety of things: high-quality, choice, top-grade, exceptional, first-class, superior, superb, splendid, magnificent, tasteful, smart, rare — even spiffy! But nowhere do you find the word "expensive". At THaT* Furniture Store in Salisbury, the same philosophy holds true.
Three years ago, Mike and Dianne Ringer took a leap of faith and created a brand new concept — offering the best home furnishings available based on old-fashioned values, time-tested quality, at more than affordable prices. They had a hunch that what people really needed wasn't necessarily a showroom with the most square footage filled with stuff you see in everyone else's home. They also didn't think folks wanted to save money based solely on a computer screen image, where you get to find out how (un)comfortable your sofa is when it reaches your door weeks later.
Today, THaT* Furniture Store has built a reputation throughout the Eastern Shore as the perfect place to find that special piece you're searching for, at prices that won't put a dent in your budget. The warm, inviting showroom conveniently located on Route 13 North in Salisbury (next to Ponzetti's Pizza) offers a browser's paradise, a place to not only look, but touch, feel, sit and explore to your heart's content from the expansive selection of furniture finds representing every corner of the globe and styles spanning classic to modern. Best of all, the piece you fall in love with is the exact same one you bring home.
Thanks to Mike and Dianne Ringer's strong work ethic, sense of faith and spirit of adventure, their creative enterprise offering "imperfectly" fine furniture at 50-80 percent off retail prices has struck a resounding chord with furniture buyers. In what he sees as both a labor of love and exciting treasure hunt, Mike continually travels throughout the country searching for the finest pieces crafted from mahogany, oak, leather and other heirloom-quality materials from among leading name brand irregulars, closeouts, showroom samples, factory seconds and "scratch and dent" merchandise featuring barely perceptible flaws. Some items arrive as new in the box due to another retailer's ordering mistake, wrong delivery address, or simply an overstock or discontinued item.
"When the store first opened, maybe 80 percent of our inventory had minor imperfections," Mike said. "At this point, that figure is down to about 20-30 percent." The Ringers believe that for most people the joy of being able to choose from a selection of higher end furniture not usually offered to the Eastern Shore market at a savings of greater than half off is far more crucial than finding a minor flaw.
"If someone offered you the opportunity to buy a top-of-the-line car which had a slight, barely noticeable ding somewhere underneath the frame at a great fraction of the regular cost, most of us would jump at the chance to buy it," Ringer said. The same is true of furniture, he noted. It doesn't have to be perfect to be considered an exceptional buy.
As a family-owned and -operated business, the personal touch is apparent in every aspect of THaT* Furniture Store, from the incredible, ever-changing selection to the attentive customer service. On the day that I visited, the cozy showroom was fully stocked with outstanding examples of craftsmanship to suit a variety of tastes, including a solid rustic pine armoire, a high-end Olde English-style cabinet made of aged oak, a stately red leather chair made in North Carolina, a hand-painted and restored antique Chinese sideboard, and a distinctive round Abaca side chest, just to name a few. Every few days, visitors can enjoy discovering fresh arrivals of merchandise. But they can always rest assured of the constant quality, character and considerable cost-savings they'll also find.
With a background in the advertising field, Mike Ringer is well aware of the value of getting his store known to the public through ads on well-listened-to radio stations like Q105 and Froggy 99.9, in The Metropolitan Magazine and on television. But he readily admits that the furnishings his customers bring into their homes often provide the best publicity. "People see a beautiful, unique piece and ask where it came from. When they find out it was at our store, they definitely want to come see for themselves what we have," he said.