Jan St. Syr has been a customer at Louise’s Real Wood Furniture for 17 years. Like many of the store’s regulars, she was sad to hear of the longtime Lafayette store’s decision to close its doors.
The family furniture store, located at 2807 Johnston St. in the South College Center, announced recently it would close after almost 50 years in business. Louise’s, St. Syr was convinced, was a business that would have been in Acadiana forever.
“It means something special when you walk into a store and they greet you by your first name,” said St. Syr, a Grand Prairie resident.
The decision to close was difficult for owner Anna Lane, whose parents started the business in 1971. In mid-March, the store promoted a two-month sales event to “gain some ground,” she said, and she announced recently that it will close later this summer.
“We knew Memorial Day was going to be the cutoff, and we had to make a decision,” Lane said. “The last three years has been a challenge for us. We recognize the way of shopping has changed. We really wanted to carry on.”
The store, which sells bedroom and kitchen furniture with a natural wood finish, made its mark with customer service and quality products. Many of the store’s items are discounted, and its 4,000-plus Facebook followers can see many of those items online.
Other customers enjoyed the store’s family atmosphere along with their products. Lafayette resident Susan Moreau said she liked the “homey feeling” of the store and not feeling pressured into buying something.
“Lafayette is losing a landmark,” she said.
Said Lane: “I feel like most everyone in Acadiana has at least one piece of furniture from Louise’s Real Wood. Even though our store is closing down, I think that the memory and the legacy of Louise’s Real Wood solid wood, solid value will live on.”
Lane’s parents, Brian and Louise Baudoin, started the business in the Oil Center as Louise’s Unpainted Furniture. Louise wanted to open a store, Lane recalled, and one day while in Baton Rouge she saw an unpainted furniture store.
The owners of the Baton Rouge store helped the Baudoins to start their business in Lafayette by giving them advice on products.
“This was Acadiana’s first wood store,” Lane said. “This was the first introduction to unfinished furniture in Acadiana.”
The Baudoins, along with Lane and her six siblings, worked in the store to make Louise’s dream a reality and living to her motto, “Solid wood, solid value.” The children pitched in during summer and Christmas breaks either working in the showroom to making deliveries.
“It was wonderful to have been able to work together as a family,” she said. “We find that very strengthening for our family.”
The store also had a mascot, the lumberjack. Devin Lantier started working at Louise’s when he was 18 making deliveries and later became the lumberjack, and now he does the finishing work for the store.
“He had been invaluable to us,” Lane said.
But shopping habits have changed in Acadiana and nationwide, leaving retailers across the country to either adapt or close down. A report earlier this month from the USA Today indicated that the number of store closings so far this year is 20 percent higher than a year ago.
An estimated 7,000 stores will close this year, and while many of those closures have been clothing stores, furniture stores have struggled. Pier 1, which has a Lafayette location and 13 in Louisiana, announced last month it would close 57 stores, and Mattress Firm closed several stores last year.
“We’ve had so many heartwarming conversations with people coming in just in unbelief that we are closing even though they heard it on the radio or they saw it on the TV,” Lane said. “They walk in the door and they see the banner outside ‘Going Out Of Business’ coming to the counter saying, ‘Now, you’re not really closing are you?’
“We’re sad we’re leaving, too. It’s a mutual feeling. God is in charge of all of our seasons, and this is a new season for us. We feel very appreciative of Acadiana and how they have supported us. We feel like it’s time for us to put an end to this and start a new chapter.”
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