More than a half century after George and Marvel Buck took a second mortgage on their Richfield home to open Buck’s Unpainted Furniture on E. Lake Street in Minneapolis, the family-owned business is closing its last remaining store.
George and Marvel Buck’s four sons grew the wood furniture business to a peak of five Twin Cities stores and sales of around $5 million for several years through 2000.
Roger Buck, one of two brothers who remain in the business, said Thursday the company is liquidating the inventory of the 35-year-old Bloomington store over the next 90 days or so. The business will close when the inventory expires, unless a buyer emerges.
“We are saddened to do this,” said Roger Buck, 66, who added that sales have dwindled to under $1 million in recent years. “Unloading trucks isn’t as much fun as it used to be.”
The Buck brothers said in 1998, at the peak of their business’ popularity, that they avoided products made from plywood and particle board. About 70 percent of their sales were items that had no varnish or paint. Of that, the company would finish about half to customer specifications.
“In some ways we created our own problem, because we hear every day that our wood furniture lasts a long time,” Roger Buck said. “We’ve survived some tough economic downturns and trends toward disposable furniture and Internet retailers, Craigslist, and … Ikea and other big-box retailers.
“Our customer is more into the value of real wood, and there aren’t that many customers like that anymore. A lot of people tell us about the table or chairs they bought 25 years ago that’s still like new, other than a scratch a kid put on it. Our stuff lasts.”
A family investment
George Buck was a Hungarian who immigrated to the United States before World War II. He met Marvel in Cincinnati, where he was working in a defense plant during the war, when she was visiting a sister. They eventually settled in Minneapolis.
George Buck found work at a wood-furniture shop in downtown Minneapolis, but the owner closed the shop and sold the building in 1959. George and Marvel opened their own store after saving some money, refinancing their house and finding a bank that would lend them some money for inventory.
“We [four boys] all worked in the store and on the trucks after school,” recalled Roger Buck.
George Buck died in 1974. The sons took over the business and worked with their mother, who died in 1999.
In 2010, Buck’s closed its Falcon Heights store, leaving the lone outlet in Bloomington. Buck’s also operated stores at varying times in Hopkins, Fridley, Chanhassen, St. Paul, Minnetonka, Maplewood and Inver Grove Heights. The Bloomington store on Lyndale Avenue S. has operated for 35 years.
The four brothers, Ramon, Roger, Rich and Randy, took turns running the business over the years.
“We got along amazingly well,” Roger Buck said. “We had a great run … but you need to innovate or step aside.”