After 6 decades and 3-year hot streak, Colorado furniture dealer going out on top

Larrabee’s Furniture & Design in Littleton, Colo., is closing as its owners retire this year.

LITTLETON, Colo. — When Larrabee’s Furniture & Design here shuts its doors for the last time later this year, its owners believe the impact they’ve made over the years will continue to be felt for years.

“What comes first in my mind is I’d like people to think favorably about us and have good memories of their shopping experiences,” said Scott Larrabee, who owns the business with his wife, Carolyn. “That’s what people are telling me when they come in. We want to leave this business as classy as we’ve always run it for 60 years.”

Scott and Carolyn Larrabee are retiring this year and closing the business. They kicked off a going out of business sale earlier this month and have given themselves until the end of 2022 to wrap things up, although Scott said he would like to have things finished by the end of September.

“For Scott and I, we made the benchmark a year ago of 50 years together. I like to say he has sawdust in his veins, and I have it partially in my veins because of that. It’s been a wonderful time in the industry. We know everyone in the industry,” Carolyn Larrabee said, followed by Scott noting that over the years, he’s met everybody mentioned in Beth Macy’s “Factory Man” book except for one.

Scott Larrabee followed in the footsteps of his father, a longtime furniture retailer, and at the close of this era, two of his three adult children, Erin and Matt, work in the family business. A third, Heather, is a marketing executive outside of the industry providing advertising and marketing guidance to the family business over the years.

Heather Larrabee, Carolyn Larrabee, Scott Larrabee, Erin Larrabee, Matt Larrabee.

Heather Larrabee, left, Carolyn Larrabee, Scott Larrabee, Erin Larrabee and Matt Larrabee.

Larrabee’s began in Boulder in 1962 and eventually set up shops in Fort Collins and Greeley over the years. Over time, Fort Collins evolved into the flagship before the family closed it and operated out of Littleton during the past decade or so. Even with the shift in location, the store, which was a previous Beyond the Top 100 retailer, developed a loyal following from Coloradans. That’s been seen in the pre-sales for Larrabee’s email members.

“We’ve really built quite a loyal customer following. Some of them come to us when we had our flagship location in Fort Collins 20 years ago and many are new to this geographic area,” said Erin Larrabee, the company’s executive vice president. “We’re up to almost 14,000 people on our e-blast list, and they get exclusive access to things before the public is made aware. For the past 10 days, they got exclusive access to see everything before the public. We did as much volume in five days as we’ve done in the best month for the company.”

Added Scott Larrabee, “Every day has been a Black Friday since we started. The first day was like three Black Fridays. It’s been incredibly successful so far.”

And while there’s been that sort of bond with the community, Scott Larrabee said the relationships with employees, both current and former, mean a lot, too.

“One of the things I’m incredibly proud of is when we closed our Fort Collins store, which had been open 33-34 years, all of our employees found work immediately, and half started their own businesses. I’m so proud that every one of them was successful,” he said. “One of the advantages of working for a family business, especially if you’re open with your people, they learn how to run a business. They learn accounting and sales and purchasing. At the end of my career, if I could look back and be proud of something, that would be at the top of the list.

“We’re competing with two of our former people right now, and I’m delighted that they’re doing well in their business. We must have done something right to teach them a bit,” he continued.

So what’s next? “Mostly, my wife said we’re going to spend time with our grandkids and do some traveling. Our first trip is taking our youngest granddaughter to Disneyland,” Scott Larrabee said. “We talked to the kids and had different thoughts. We’re only closed three days a year, and it’s difficult for us to take extended time. A two-week vacation is gold. There are a few places we’d like to see that would take three to four weeks to do or go to Arizona for the winter. Those are all things we’re looking forward to.”

While Erin and Matt were instrumental in running the business when Scott had a health scare a few years back, Erin said she’s going to take some family time — she has a young daughter — before making her next move. She didn’t rule out a return to the furniture industry.

“I’m going to take a brief pause. It’s been a big 10 years. I was blessed to have a daughter I was told I couldn’t have. I feel like I want to focus on being her mom and seeing what surfaces. If opportunities come my way, I’ll see what happens,” she said.

“I want to get her into kindergarten and see what happens after that. They approached me about taking this on my own. The retail hours and the schedule are tricky with a little one at home. I had to make the right call for my family but you never know once she gets older.”

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