Van Metre’s goes out while it’s still good

After 40 years in the family, the Van Metres close furniture store

December 28, 2005

Longtime downtown business Van Metre’s Furniture has closed its doors and is preparing for a going-out-of-business sale to begin Jan. 1.

“This is not a negative thing,” owner Mark Van Metre said. “This is a good thing.”

Mark and his wife, Jodi, have decided to change course after spending 31 years in the furniture business. They stress that they are not being forced out by “big box” stores or anything like that.

“We’ve had a good year, actually,” Mark said. “Our decision was to go out while things were still good. What we’ll be doing is done by choice – we don’t have to get out.”

The furniture store has been in the Van Metre family since 1965, when Mark’s father, Ron, went into partnership with John Emerson to buy Hampton Furniture – a store he had been managing for seven years.

The partners changed the name to J & R Furniture, which it remained until Van Metre bought out Emerson in 1981 and changed the name to Van Metre’s.

The building has nearly always housed a furniture store. It was constructed in 1906 for Stewart Hardware and Furniture Co., and later became Kelly Bros. Furniture.

In 1934 the east end of the building became “Doc” Eby’s grocery, “The Red & White Store,” while the west end was occupied by Tucker’s Feed and Seed. But it wasn’t long before the building returned to its furniture roots as Field’s Furniture.

Field’s sold to Rusty Hampton in 1958, and that’s when Ron Van Metre entered the picture. He had been working at another furniture store in The Dalles when Hampton asked him to manage the new Hood River business.

“This is my fourth ‘Going-out-of-business’ sale,” Ron laughed. “Field’s, Hampton’s, J & R, and now Van Metre’s.”

Ron and his wife, Marlene, sold the business to Mark and Jodi in the early 1990s, but retained ownership of the building. They plan to continue as owners and will lease the building to new businesses, with Mark taking care of securing new tenants. The west end of the building, 10,000 square feet worth, has already been leased and will hold a mattress, linens and accessories business.

“Sort of like Bed, Bath and Beyond,” Mark said, adding that the owner, a local person, was out of town for the holidays and would be able to provide more information at a later date.

After the inventory is sold, the Van Metres will spend some time readying the rest of the space for new businesses, and then will be free to pursue other interests.

“Our kids are grown and starting new lives,” Mark said. “Alisha is at college working on her master’s degree, and Allan has his associate’s degree in fire science — and they are both engaged. We decided we’re young enough to start a new career.

“I’m going to do a little construction with my dad,” Mark said.

“When you work retail, you’re working six days a week. That’s 31 years of working Saturdays. It’s time to change that! It’s time to take weekends off and do something different.”

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