Rent-to-own furniture company expands with new store in Spring Hill

Fabian Cooper Great Rooms

Employee Fabian Cooper sits in a staged living room, every item for rent, at the newly opened Great Rooms store in Spring Hill. Photo Source: Beth N. Gray | Special to the Times

Wind through the artfully appointed, staged living rooms, the topically styled five-piece dinette sets, the bunk bed to queen-size bedroom suites, and it still likely will be the 75-inch Sony LED television that blows shoppers away.

“We actually already delivered one,” said muscle man Fabian Cooper at Great Rooms on the day after the furniture rental store snipped its grand-opening ribbon Aug. 1 at Mariner Crossing plaza.

It is the seventh store for the Tampa-based company, which opened its first store in Tampa in 2011.

TVs and computers will be most in demand, said owner Frank Rutkowski of Holiday, based on his four years of experience operating a Great Rooms store in New Port Richey, which continues under his ownership.

The Spring Hill store’s lineup includes more than a dozen television choices, including the latest concave screens. Computer selections range from desktop to laptop.

“Most customers rent to own,” Rutkowski said. “That’s my ultimate goal. We do everything to help them do that. We’re not the type of rental for a weekend party. We’re more in the line of you’re wanting to own this merchandise.”

While customers can rent an item for as little as a week, contracts are normally for 12, 18 or 24 months. The longer the contract, the less the per-month charge. For instance, a living room suite that rents for $200 monthly over 12 months may cost $150 monthly over 18 months, Rutkowski explained.

“We’ll write that all out for you, all cards on the table, so you can see what’s best for you,” he said.

Outright cash sales are also offered, as well as three- to 12-month buyouts with no interest or finance charges. That 75-inch TV rents for $69.99 per week for 24 months, or can be purchased for $3,399.

Rutkowski defined rent-to-own customers as ages 20 to 45, middle income, “families that really like beautiful merchandise, and I make it affordable for them.”

And beautiful are the room settings Rutkowski himself designed.

Early in his career in the furniture field, Rutkowski said, “I learned from an interior decorator. I followed her around for six months. Every time she moved something, I asked her why.”

“I set this up,” he said of a particular living room arrangement in coordinated colors and complementary styles. “You may not like the tables with it. Whatever you like, we’ll put together a package that you like.”

Brand names are a focus for the store’s merchandise, with some 300 items on display, from sofas to candlesticks and wall art, maybe 10,000 more units available through vendors’ catalogs. They include Ashley and Crosley furniture, Whirlpool and Amana appliances and Mitsubishi, LG, Sony and Apple electronics, to name a few.

“We’re the next biggest store for Ashley Home furniture next to Ashley HomeStores themselves,” Rutkowski said. “And we’re cheaper than them because I’m not sitting down on (U.S.) 19,” with higher overheads “and lots of charge accounts.”

Another plus, as he sees it, is there are no credit checks.

“Not everybody has the best of credit,” he acknowledged.

As a business protection, the store asks for driver’s license identification, a copy of a pay stub and personal references.

In Hernando County, Great Rooms will compete with similar rental outlets — Aaron’s on Commercial Way and Buddy’s Home Furnishings on Spring Hill Drive, for example. “We are very price conscious as well as aware of our competitors,” Rutkowski said. “Most times we can beat them.”

He also points to a Great Rooms business philosophy of giving back to the community. Last week, he was in talks with Springstead High School about a local fundraiser.

Rutkowski himself will manage the Spring Hill store and its four employees for at least the first year. The company has a five-year lease at the plaza with extension options.

“We plan to be here for a long, long time,” Rutkowski said.

Source: Tampa Bay Times
Contact Beth Gray at graybethn@earthlink.net.