WHITE CITY — A lot of people move to Southern Oregon not sure what they're going to do for work; others bring their jobs with them.

WHITE CITY — A lot of people move to Southern Oregon not sure what they're going to do for work; others bring their jobs with them.

In Brian Garrison's case, it was a matter of checking out a golden opportunity and then deciding if he wanted to make Jackson County his home.

When Jim Garrison, Brian's dad, decided it was time to retire, he told his son he should check out the Rogue Valley and see if he was interested in the furniture business as well.

The younger Garrison, a San Diego native, had a job he loved with a military contractor and liked the Southern California climate. Yet, he was intrigued about the possibility of running his own show.

"I moved up here with the idea to find out if, A) I liked Medford, and B) if I liked selling furniture," says the 29-year-old Garrison. "I worked a solid year for dad before I bought the business."

Still, he wanted to put his own spin on things.

"I decided the best thing was to take dad's store out of business and then build my own store from the ground up," Garrison says.

The new approach — Garrison's Home Furnishings — in the old venue on Crater Lake Highway, next to West Coast Appliance, was launched in January. The 22,000-square-foot showroom has been augmented with an adjacent 12,000-square-foot warehouse.

His father once owned an antique store on the corner of Delta Waters and Crater Lake Highway, but Garrison is convinced his present location is perfect for growing a small chain.

"Eagle Point and White City are where the county is growing and Medford is heading this direction," Garrison reasons. "Are there better locations out ther? Probably. But I signed a 20-year lease and I'm pretty stoked."

In the future, he hopes to open stores in other Southern Oregon locations such as Brookings, Grants Pass or Roseburg.

There are about three dozen stores retailing furniture in varying degrees around Southern Oregon, so distinguishing one inventory from the next can be tricky.

"It is a crowded market," Garrison admits. "What I noticed, though, was the same basic micro-fiber stuff and earth tones. Two main points in my business plan would be service and just being different."

He learned service from his days in the hospitality industry and his sales staff helped steer him to less redundant furniture styles.

"It takes thinking outside of the box and challenging yourself," Garrison says. "The furniture industry is one industry right now where everyone is getting into price wars. There are cheaper-priced sofas out there, but I don't know if that's necessarily what customers want. The alternative is, get furniture with more look and character. I don't think it's so tough to be different and trust people to buy into it."

Garrison says he modeled his store after one that grabbed his attention — Jerome's — when he was growing up in San Diego.

"I was never in a position to buy furniture when I lived there, but everyone I talked to said they had a good experience," Garrison says. "Every time I'm in San Diego I go to Jerome's to get an idea of why they're successful; it's a low-pressue atmosphere with everyday low prices rather than sales."

He says he had to battle his veteran sales people on that point.

Garrison elected to put sales people on salary rather than pay commission, as is predominant in the industry.

"Everyone walking into the store has their guard up," he says. "I'd rather have sales people educating people and not just there to close the deal. If we have the solution people are looking for, great. I refer people to various stores in the area and if we can take care of somebody that way, in the long run we'll gain their business."

And when he travels to San Diego, it doesn't feel so much like home anymore.

"I was down there for five days, the last time," Garrison says. "After two days, I was ready to get back to Medford."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or at business@mailtribune.com