The Futon Shop closing its doors after 35 years in Waterloo

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The Futon Shop in uptown Waterloo is closing its doors after 35 years of business due to rising rent prices, the economy and other major factors like the Uptown BIA construction.

Greg Mewhiney, owner of The Futon Shop, has been making futons out of the King Street North location since 1985 and at one point even had three stores running due to the futon business.

“There were probably several factors — one was declining sales; the futon industry probably hit its peak in the late 90s to early 2000s, that was probably the high point of sales and every year after that there was a small decline, which is fine, you can deal with that when it’s small. When it drops 40 per cent, that’s when you go bankrupt,” Mewhiney said.

“You factor in rising expenses, your rent starts going up, wages, hydro, advertising all start going up, sales start to come down. We used to have a warehouse and a delivery person, we used to have all sorts of things, at the end it was just me, it was a one man show.”

[The building’s new owner and I] sat down and had a great conversation. He told me what he needed for rent and I said there was not any way we could make it work with those prices, he understood and asked to go month to month until we could rent, then the next day said we had to rent it already … it was a very cordial relationship, but someone was willing to pay a lot more than we were paying.

– Greg Mewhiney, owner of The Futon Shop

Though there is still hope from customers that The Futon Shop may come back to life once again, much of the store’s stock was marked down 40 to 50 per cent in December to try and clear all inventory.

“The final thing that happened was that the new rent was going to be basically double. To be fair we were probably paying under market value for years, then a new owner came on board who probably did pay market rates which are crazy,” Mewhiney said.

“We sat down and had a great conversation. He told me what he needed for rent and I said there was not any way we could make it work with those prices, he understood and asked to go month to month until we could rent, then the next day said we had to rent it already. There was no screaming — it was a very cordial relationship, but someone was willing to pay a lot more than we were paying.”

Due to the mass market mentality, many shoppers did not want to pay more than $200 for a futon. Though the quality of pieces Mewhiney crafted would last much longer than any large brand, the $600 dollar or higher price tag in comparison hurt sales along with other factors.

“There was about four years of construction that wasn’t necessarily right in front of us but a block down the street, so even if we weren’t closed right in front of us somebody two blocks down was or the whole street was closed, people didn’t know even how to get to the store or if it was open, due to that we dropped 40 per cent,” Mewhiney said.

“This year, sales kind of came back a little bit, but we’re still 30 per cent below what we used to be. That on top of the rental increase, the numbers just didn’t add up. That definitely had a determining factor on us closing.”

Locations have been looked at to reopen the store outside of uptown.

However, Mewhiney states that maybe if he was a bit younger it would be in the cards — but age is a factor to consider with the legacy of the store and the shop closing for good.

“It’s the interaction with people, my wife says I gab at everyone who comes through the door, but everyone has a story. People think you’re trying to jam something down their throat, but you ask about them and interacting with people for me was always interesting, as well as having a purpose. We’ve only been closed for a week and I get up and wonder what I’ll do next,” Mewhiney said.

“There is no malice between myself and uptown Waterloo or the landlord; we get along great, [but] it was strictly a business decision and I respect that. I used to own the building so I understand how it works; it’s just unfortunate that uptown is getting so expensive and a lot of unique places are going to get pushed out simply because they can’t pay the $40 a square foot rent.”

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