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As economy slows down, Winans Furniture owner says ... 'We've simplified things'

Seems everyone is downsizing these days, whether for the sake of fashion or necessity.

Count Joseph Winans Furniture Co. in downtown Medford among that number.

The venerable retailer has teased and tempted furniture buyers with a variety of trendy showroom settings across the street from its West Main headquarters for the past two decades. The high-end furniture dealer has morphed from natural wood, leather and wicker, to an upscale design center, an Italian leather phase featuring a Pelle Fina Natuzzi Gallery, and then a Thomasville gallery.

The latest look for the two buildings, part of the company's facade urban renewal project, is a somewhat less fashionable but still trendy "For Sale" sign and windows covered in brown masking paper.

"Obviously, the business climate hasn't been great," said store owner Joe Pedrojetti. "We decided a couple of months ago to remodel the second and third floor of our main store and put all of the product in one store. We've simplified things."

That's a different direction for Winans which was in an expansion mode in 2005 — when home equity cash was flowing and when Winans re-entered the Grants Pass market with a Parkway Village store that remains open.

"Hopefully, the (Main Street) property will sell pretty soon," Pedrojetti said. "We want to bring life to downtown Medford; Four Daughters (Irish Pub) next to us has done very well and we see it happening for others."

Pedrojetti and his late partner Mark Winans obtained the 7,000-square-foot West Main and Fir Street building from Eugene and Richard Orr in 1984 for $350,000 and the 5,000-square-foot 20 S. Fir St. structure from Gary Lewellyn and Judith Ball for $72,980 in 1989. The asking price for the larger corner building is $1.1 million and the east-facing building is priced at $849,000.

"I believe that location is very inviting," said Medford Urban Renewal Agency Director Jackie Rodgers. "Destination businesses are what most downtowns want, and that's the best place right there."

The MURA leader said eating or boutique establishments would be a good fit for the property across Fir Street from the stalled Bella Vita project.

"Retail and commercial activity that can be on the street would be the most inviting as opposed to offices or residential use," Rodgers said.

Two decades ago, the buildings were decaying eyesores.

"When we bought those buildings, they were junk," Pedrojetti said. "The Beau Club, Office Boy and an old pawn shop were there along Main and the parts that were unoccupied and had vagrants living in them. The fronts were all messed up."

By the early 1990s, things had changed, Adroit Construction had revamped the corner building. When the false ceilings were torn away on the back building, large beams were exposed, revealing more than a decade's worth of creative efforts.

"We're in the fashion business," Pedrojetti said. "So we're always redoing things. We want to do different things to update our showrooms and be trend-setters."

The youngest of Joe and Frances Pedrojetti's daughters, Gina, owner of a trend-setting boutique in Scottsdale, Ariz., opened Estílo Boutique in the Fir Street building during 2004. Their older daughter, Lisa, helped launch adjacent Bella Bambino Children's Store the same year.

"Last year, they sold their businesses," Pedrojetti said. "All of the sudden we had a vacant building."

Pedrojetti said consolidating under one roof in the into 30,000-square-foot Weeks & Orr Building, where furniture has been sold since 1909, made sense during slower economic times.

"Having stores on both sides of the street created confusion and we were having a hard time finding good, quality sales people," he said. "Things are a little tougher, we've got to get through this and we decided to pull back."

Winans recently hired Steve Williams away from Engles Furniture in North Bend to oversee its 25-person staff.

"We've moved things over in December," Pedrojetti said. "And we had a decent December, January and February."

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

This building at the corner of West Main and Fir streets in downtown Medford, formerly home to Joseph Winans Furniture’s Pelle Fina furniture gallery, is for sale. - Bob Pennell