By Maggie Menderski, Retail Reporter, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Iverson’s Furniture opened 60 years ago with a building and a sign that said “consignment.”
The actual furniture followed slowly … piece-by-piece … over time.
Today, the store on Bee Ridge Road just east of U.S. 41 is a hub for high-end, used homewares, but in 1957 it was just a dream for northern transplants Hal and Cheryl Iverson. Like so many of Sarasota’s newcomers, the Minnesota couple had vacationed in the area and fallen in love with the warm weather and sugary beaches. They borrowed $3,000 from a family member, loaded up a U-Haul and drove south with their three small children and the family dog. That seed money was the foundation for one of the most long-lived family-owned businesses in Sarasota.
And six decades later, they’re not packing up anytime soon.
Well, at least not their own place.
Today, Barry Wigglesworth, the Iversons’ grandson, manages the store and its collection. The business often takes on whole house loads of furniture, and his team sorts through what they can sell and what needs to be donated. They’ve picked up bizarre treasures such as a pair of wooden Civil War-era dice and a Russian lampshade worth thousands of dollars, but they clean out everything down to the contents of refrigerators. The overall goal for the store floor is quality, and Wigglesworth can afford to be choosy.
His mother, Mari Morton, shifted the store’s focus to high-end pieces when she took over the business in 1976. The staff at the time thought she’d drive Iverson’s into the ground, but quite the opposite happened. Morton expanded in 1981 and opened a second store on Clark Road.
Many of Sarasota’s residents are wealthy and well-traveled, she says, and there’s no shortage of treasures in this area or of people who are looking for them. Ninety percent of the pieces the mother-son team sees never make it to their showroom floor.
They pick up most of their stock from local estate sales, model homes, mainstream stores with excess inventory or from decorators and interior designers. While that local surplus of gently used furniture could, in theory, drive growth for the company, they’ve kept the business small. Today, Iverson’s has just seven full-time employees. Opening another store would mean thinning out the family’s time at each location, and Wigglesworth says being present is essential. He’s not looking to expand.
The family business has come a long way from that empty storefront 60 years ago, but that’s really no surprise to Wigglesworth. He credits the longevity to his mother and her passion for the business. Morton enjoys what she does, and even in her retirement, she’s still involved.
There’s something special, she says, about watching her customers find something they’ll treasure.
That’s kept the family business going all this time.
And it’s driving it into the next decade.
PHOTO: Mari Morton, left, and son Barry Wiggelsworth are keeping family-run Iverson’s Furniture going, including the company’s store on Bee Ridge Road. The business was started by Wiggelworth’s grandparents. [HERALD TRIBUNE STAFF PHOTO / MAGGIE MENDERSKI ]
— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @MaggieMenderski. Read her daily blog at whatsinstore.blogs.heraldtribune.com.