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End of an Era for Michael’s Furniture

Panorama City lost a retail institution earlier this month when Michael’s Furniture Warehouse closed its doors after 58 years. The longstanding home décor store on Woodman Avenue announced in October that it was liquidating $2 million in inventory as it prepared to shutter permanently. Tiger Capital Group, a New York-based asset appraisal and auction firm with offices in Westlake Village, managed the going-out-of-business sale. Michael’s closed for good Dec. 8. “The kids weren’t interested. They had worked for me for a long time but didn’t want to take over the business,” said Jerry Reisman, who has owned Michael’s with his wife Roz since 1972. “To be honest with you, it’s hard today to be in retail and compete with the big boxes. I think it’s happening in a lot of industries.” Michael’s Furniture was 10 years old when Jerry purchased it in 1971 at age 22 — Roz joined a year later when the two married. In the 1980s, the Reismans famously launched campy television advertisements for Michael’s that featured such costumed characters as “Mattress Mike,” “Boxsprings Bob,” “Furniture Faye” and “Bunny,” a parody of the Energizer Bunny. Jerry’s calling card became a toupee that he’d wear throughout the commercials, then yank off his naturally bald head and proclaim “Michael’s Furniture: the store with less overhead! Your neighbors shop here, too!” The commercials were goofy, but they worked. At its peak, Michael’s Furniture had sales of $9 million a year. “I didn’t know I would brand myself as well as I did. I was just having fun at first, but then it became a tool,” Reisman said. He attributed the store’s longevity in part to those television ad campaigns. Over the years, Michael’s became a cornerstone of the Panorama City business community, partnering with the police and fire departments and passing out blankets and winter clothes to the homeless every Christmas, shirking press attention all the while because it was “the right thing to do,” Reisman said. Business slowed for Michael’s in the 2000s as e-commerce platforms such as Amazon.com Inc. and eBay Inc. skyrocketed in popularity. Reisman said the arrival of big box stores such as Bob’s Discount Furniture and Ashley HomeStore in the Valley hurt, too. “We had a great run,” he said. “Now it’s time to move on to the next part of our lives.” He and Roz look forward to traveling and spending time with their children and grandchildren. As for the 25,000-square-foot property at 7700 Woodman Ave., Reisman said they haven’t decided whether to sell it or lease it to commercial tenants. “We could probably put six businesses in here,” he said. Added Reisman: “The store is kind of an institution. When it’s all said and done, I think the Valley will miss it.”

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