This is Bob Batt, the Executive Vice President of the Nebraska Furniture Mart which broke ground on the largest home furnishings store not just in Texas but the USA — and probably, the world — this morning in The Colony, along the southern border of State Highway 121. The store won’t be selling us any granite or bedding or furniture for our homes until 2015, but this is a major, major deal for North Texas. First of all, Nebraska Furniture Mart will be the anchor store of a 1.5 billion, 433 acre mixed use development complex and distribution center along 121. When it opens, it will be the largest retail and entertainment destination anywhere. Like, I cannot even wrap my head around how big this is going to be. Looking out across the field, if you can see the trucks in the far distance, that’s the span of the place. They say the size of 40 Texas football fields and sitting on 90 acres just for the 560,000 square foot Furniture Mart alone. Ye haw. When it opens, it will attract more than 8 million visitors and generate a projected $600 million in annual sales. All here in North Texas.
This is also cool because it’s a joint partnership with The Colony, a TIF that claims to give five million back to The Colony and double the area’s sales tax base. This is how the Denton County and Colony folks put it: it’s a long term marriage, not a one-night stand.
So why do we get all excited about a gigantic home furnishings mecca going up? Well, for one, 2000 plus jobs and Nebraska could have chosen anywhere, but they chose Texas. Specifically, they chose The Colony where they had a unified, cooperative city council and let’s face it: lots of cheaper land. Could the Dallas City Council have pulled off something like this in say, Oak Cliff where we still have acreage to spare? Are you kidding me? My Lord, the guys down at Trinity Groves had to work fingernails to the bone for the recent zoning compromise that finally allows these urban pioneers to forge ahead with West Dallas Investments and plans to build restaurants, retail shops and entertainment venues on a 15-acre site called Trinity Groves along Singleton Boulevard. One group of homeowners, the La Bajada neighborhood to the north, dug in and fought to the bitter end. They “didn’t want to change the neighborhood”. Don’t get me started.
So, we are bringing in jobs, and development to The Colony, and what follows? Residential real estate, like Billingsley’s Austin Ranch to the south.
“Build a great road system,” said Nebraska Furniture Mart’s Bob Batt, “the commerce and homes will come.”
Nebraska Furniture Mart was founded in 1937 in Omaha, Nebraska by a Russian immigrant to America named Rose Blumkin, who we were told this morning, worked in the store until she was 103 — sounds like our Ebby Halliday, no? — and did not understand why people wanted to take vacations. She also never spoke nor wrote English. She started the store in the basement of her husband’s pawn shop in downtown Omaha with a $500 investment. Her philosophy was to “sell cheap and tell the truth” about home furnishings. The company flourished so much that famous Nebraska native and mega investor Warren Buffet bought Nebraska Furniture Mart for $60 million in 1983, bringing the store into his Berkshire-Hathaway fold with his legendary handshake deal. So yes, NFM had a major capital infusion that bought expansion to Des Moines, Iowa and Kansas City, Mo. There is also a Mrs. B’s Clearance Center and Factory Outlet in Omaha. The store is still run by members of the Blumkin family, including Mr. Batt here who is one of her grandsons. The grandkids said they all had to work in their grandmother’s store beginning at age 14.
So this is just another example of how well our economy is doing, why even though we love the inner loop of Dallas, folks still look north to buy dream homes and now, furnish them from flooring to granite to furniture and bedding to even appliances, electronics and computers! Mr. Batt also told me the price range spectrum at NFM will be from value-oriented to high-end, something for everyone!
“Dallas is one hell of a place to do business, ” he said.
Dallas? It’s in the Colony. Interesting how our suburbs manage to make us south of LBJ look so darn good!