Jordan’s Furniture brings Buffett, ziplines and hooplah to New Haven
Published: 12/10/2015 11:15:00 PM EST
NEW HAVEN >> Words like “wow” and “spectacular” usually aren’t the expressions that come to mind when you go to a furniture store.
But, then again, there aren’t many stores like Jordan’s Furniture.
The Massachusetts-based retailer drew hundreds of specially invited guests to its first and only Connecticut store, at 40 Sargent Drive Thursday night, in advance of Friday evening’s official grand opening.
The former New Haven Register building has been converted into a 150,000-square-foot furniture showroom, plus a 30,000-square-foot entertainment complex, what Jordan’s Chief Executive Officer Eliot Tatelman claims is the world’s largest indoor ropes course. The ropes course — along with a pair of 200-foot ziplines and $2 million water and light show choreographed to music — are located in what used to be the newspaper’s press room.
Tatelman wouldn’t say how much it cost to renovate the building, which the newspaper moved out of in September 2014, relocating to 100 Gando Drive in the city.
But Lori Gunthorp, a spokeswoman for Michigan-based Liggett Leasing, the company that designed the four-level ropes course, said just one level alone typically costs $250,000 to build.
“We’ve built these in zoos, malls and other retail locations,” Gunthorp said, adding that the company has built and operates more than 200 around the world. “People like them because they are family friendly, something for people of all ages.”
Tatelman said furniture is such a big-ticket purchase that he doesn’t expect everyone who comes into the store to purchase something. That’s the idea behind the entertainment area, which Tatelman calls “IT.”
There’s just one little catch: In order to get to IT, you have to walk through a main street of beautiful furniture,” he said. “And if you don’t need anything now and you need something two years from now, you’ll come to this store. I love to make things bigger, better and more unique; that’s what turns me on.”
But what brought Alison Forget, a Milford mother, to Thursday’s event was not the furniture, but the fun stuff. Forget’s children, — daughter Jadyn, 4, and son Gauge, 9 — almost couldn’t contain their excitement as they put on safety harnesses to use the colorful climbing equipment.
“Junior Achievement came to our school and invited everyone to come,” she said. “I can see a lot of adults coming here on their own. It’s better than going to a bar.”
The ropes course, ziplines and climbing apparatus were free of charge on Thursday — but once the store opens, tickets ranging between $8 and $30 will be required, depending on which devices an individual wants to use.
“It brings people and gives them a smile,” Tatelman said of the entertainment portion of the store. “We want to run charity events in there, we want to have groups in there. It’s just a fun place to be; it’s awesome.”
Many of those who showed up to Thursday’s event came to hear Warren Buffett, the 85-year-old business magnate whose Berkshire Hathaway Co. owns Jordan’s Furniture. A few waited hours to meet Buffett in person as if he were capitalism’s answer to a rock star.
But Buffett, the so-called “Oracle of Omaha,” only uttered one sentence to the gathered masses — “Buy Jordan’s furniture” — before leaving with several city police officers clearing a path for him.
Most of the time Buffett spent at the store Thursday was with Tatetlman, touring the building.
“He gives me what I want,” Buffett joked about Tatelman. “But he won’t approve my credit.”
The store has two food vendors: Blaze Pizza from California and Scoop It, an ice cream store from Massachusetts, which Tatelman said features more than 50 flavors and is a sixth-generation family business of dairy farmers. Blaze has one price for any pizza, no matter how many toppings, with the pie ready in 3 minutes out of its 800-degree oven, Tatelman said.
Both are located in the entertainment area of the facility.