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Movin' on up

Medford's National Oak Warehouse relocates to a bigger building, formerly Ray's Food Place

The former Ray's Food Place building on North Pacific Highway has stood as a foreboding monument to the hazards of road construction.

The 42,000-square-foot supermarket closed February 2001, unable to survive the loss of business caused by the Big Y interchange's makeover.

But with traffic again flowing freely, the site is once more attractive to business. Next month, National Oak Warehouse, at 6435 Crater Lake Highway for the past five years, will occupy the erstwhile grocery store.

We've been looking at it for a couple of months, trying to decide, says Kathy Budge, who along with her parents, Dale and Opal Jones, operate the furniture store.

The family firm has signed a five-year lease with an option to buy from C&K Markets, Ray's parent company. National Oak's present site, owned by Merlin Fjarli, will be occupied by Discount Office Furniture and Surplus that has been on Hilton Road.

Repainting and tidying up for the anticipated June 15 opening has presented a challenge for the three owners and six other employees.

We're really crammed in here right now, Budge says. For the last week, we've been taking all of our shipments (at the new location). We're trying to sell out the stuff that's on the floor, because it's more difficult to move if it's not in boxes.

While most of the Ray's remnants are gone, the Deli sign on the wall had to be painted away.

We joked that maybe we could make sandwiches on the side, Budge says.

One decoration that won't change is a mural of Rogue Valley orchards and Table Rock.

Not only will the new facility be bigger, but it will be more conducive to the furniture business.

The warehouse we've been in isn't airtight, and the electric bill has been real high, Budge says.

National Oak's space will nearly double from the 20,000-square-foot Crater Lake Highway site that also had a 5,000 square-foot warehouse. Parking will be tripled to about 120 spaces.

Budge was a financial consultant with Merrill Lynch prior to venturing into the furniture business with her parents in 1997. The Joneses had been in retirement for three years after operating Custom Waterbeds on Crater Lake Highway for several years.

She says the family considered moving to the Portland area when it entered the furniture field.

We didn't know if there would be enough business in what we were specializing, she says. Moving to Portland would've meant relocating the whole family. After a long discussion, we decided to stay here.

Although the store carries goods from about 100 vendors, it doesn't always try to stock trendy items that don't necessarily appeal to Rogue Valley tastes.

When sales reps come in and say 'This is the hot item,' it's not necessarily hot here in the valley, Budge says. It's a little more laid-back here than in Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle.

Brian Hannaford and Bobby Wilcox have been busy moving furniture for National Oak Warehouse's moving sale. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli