I found my way to the complimentary cookie and coffee station at the new HOM superstore in Little Canada just in time. I needed a moment (and a sugar boost) to collect myself for the second half of my journey through the sprawling new furniture and design center, which houses all three of HOM Furniture Inc.'s brands: the luxurious Gabberts, more moderate HOM, and budget brand Dock 86. The 185,000-square-foot furniture and designer center makes IKEA look boutique. It's the largest furniture complex in the Twin Cities—by quite a lot.
At a time when so many big box stores have downsized and retailers are investing in online over bricks and mortar, super sizing raises eyebrows, but it's a strategy that seems to be efficient for the state's largest furniture retailer, selling products that most people still want to touch and feel before buying. The building, located just off Rice Street at I-694 and I-35E, was built as a showroom for Levitz Furniture, which, like many furniture sellers, went bankrupt during the 2008 recession. HOM purchased it to house Dock 86 and a company warehouse. The new furniture and design center is actually a consolidation of buildings: HOM closed its Roseville store to open in Little Canada. This is a second location for Gabberts, the original anchor of the Galleria in Edina.
The three brands, which have never before been housed together, each get their own area within the complex. One flows into the next, but it's pretty obvious when you're crossing from Gabberts' elegant room vignettes, complete with tile fireplaces, dramatic chandeliers and $2,500 sofas into Dock 86, with its warehouse style rows (upon rows) of sofas, at about a quarter the price. The transitions aren't any more jarring than going from clothing to accessories at a department store—in fact, it's easy to image the couple that might splurge on the designer sofa for their living room looking for a much cheaper option for the basement rec room. Rare is the consumer these days that doesn't mix high and low, whether on apparel, or home furnishings. And the HOM customer, who might never have ventured into the Galleria to check out Gabberts, is now much more inclined to cross brands. It will be interesting to see if setting the stage for aspiration actually drives sales.