Retailer combines and renovates stores, plus adds categories while continuing to provide seamless customer service.
It was 1940. The atmosphere in the historic Juanita section of Altoona, Pennsylvania, must already have been sizzling with diverse visions of the future when Luther Park bought a building constructed back in the late 1800’s to house his brand new home furnishings enterprise. At the bustling heart of what had been the most venerable and vibrant steam locomotive repair and construction shop in the world, owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad, the structure had been utilized, amongst other purposes, as a train crew rest facility. Luther’s store was in the right place at the right time to prosper, fed as it was by the needs of thousands of PRR (“Pennsy”) workers.
World War II erupted a year later, and the growth of both Park Home and the community continued unabated through the next two decades. But in 1970 change came when new energy arrived on the scene. A young John Muccitelli kicked off his retail career as a delivery helper, keeping his eyes, ears and options wide open to the sights and sounds of the furniture industry. Eight years later John and his family bought into Luther’s dream. And realizing the value of the years of integrity and respect generated by the previous owners, the Muccitellis made the decision to perpetuate the Park name.
Twenty years later, still full steam ahead, they “saw a good opportunity in the electronics business,” and entered the 21st century in prophetic expansion mode. John’s two sons, Matt and Travis, after college, had joined him in the family enterprise. They bought a small car audio based business. Said Matt, “We started out as a car stereo shop that dabbled in TV and home theater. Within a few years, the flat screen TV revolution really changed that, and we became much more focused on the TV and home theater side of the business. At this point (2017) we no longer do car stereo at all, but we do a lot of business in the Home A/V category. Everything from TVs to dedicated home theater rooms to smart home automation systems.” But back in that first decade of the Millennium, home audio was gathering momentum, became a new horizon, and the trio quickly grew into a location at Greenwood. “Park Audio” was a 12,000 square foot store that housed expanded car audio, home theatre, home security and appliances, with the furniture store still growing in Altoona.
New stores in Huntingdon in 2002 and, in 2005, Orbisonia, called for more logistic support. So the Muccitellis established the Park Home Distribution Center in Tyrone Township in 2012. It’s the fulcrum of the enterprise with accounting, purchasing, warehousing and delivery contained under one roof with the addition of Park Security and Installations, Inc.’s specialized group of service and installation technicians. It’s the hub of customers’ furniture and appliance needs all over Central Pennsylvania.
And, you guessed it, all this activity created the necessity for yet more space! The family began talks with international designer Martin Roberts in the fall of 2014 and, said Matt, “He flew in to meet with us in January 2015. Martin had been highly recommended by a few friends and business associates. It was amazing how he was able to bring our vision to life! When we met with him, he brought his trace paper and started drawing as we discussed what we were envisioning. Within a very short period of time, he had the rough sketch of what eventually became our new store. I think the design of the outside of the building came out better than any of us had even anticipated!”
The Muccitelli’s vision for Park Home? “To offer an unparalleled shopping experience where our guests can find everything they need to improve their quality of living at home.”
Martin’s analysis defined the challenge as construction commenced. “Park Stores, a family owned chain including Park Furniture & Appliances and Park Audio Plus, planned to combine its two Altoona-area stores under one roof with our help.” The ground-breaking to expand the existing Park Audio store was set for January 2016.
Travis Muccitelli, Park Audio owner, added his input. “The new store will offer a unique product mix, custom home theater environments as well as smart home automation systems, appliances, mattresses and furniture. We’ve always wanted to be under one roof and we’re excited about the prospect of combining the stores. Currently the Park Furniture building is on three different levels and when the Park Audio build-out is complete, everything will be on one level. That will improve the customer experience and make it easier for our salespeople to work.
“The expansion will also enable us to implement a unique merchandising plan with an array of products that include a number of exclusives in our market such as better appliances like Sub Zero and Wolf. We already do a lot of work in new construction, from smart home installations to appliances. Now we will be able to furnish those homes as well.”
Said Martin, “Park Audio had an existing building, about 12,000 square feet in size, where they had been selling everything audio from entertainment rooms to cars. Nowadays, consumers are not changing their existing car audio systems as often because most new cars come well equipped with specialized audio. Therefore, Park will no longer be carrying car products. Park Audio added appliances four years ago and mattresses three years ago. When the new addition is complete, the store will be a total of 37,000 square feet.
“Our design team was confronted with the objective of making as little modification as possible to the existing Park Audio building. The solution was to add large bays alongside the existing building to accommodate new and expanded product categories like upholstery.
“After construction is complete, Park will have one store in the Altoona market with all product categories under one roof, plus the Park Furniture and Appliance store in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.”
Matt provided more detail. “This project was challenging because it was partly new construction and partly remodel, and we had to stay operational throughout. We had a 12,000 square foot store that was built in 2005 and housed the Park Audio Video business. In order to be able to consolidate our aging Park Furniture location under the same roof, we added a 27,000 square foot addition onto this property. Construction started in January, 2016. The builder went ahead and built the new 27,000 square foot addition while we continued to operate Park Audio Video out of the 12,000 square foot side.
“Then, in July 2016, we began our store closing sale at the old Park Furniture location which ran through the end of September. The first two weeks of October were crazy! We were receiving truckloads of furniture and mattresses while moving all of our electronics and appliances from the Park Audio side to the new addition side. At the same time, we were holding trainings for our new sales staff. On October 13th, we officially opened the new 27,000 square foot addition and began demolition of the section of the store that used to be Park Audio Video. In order to minimize interruption, the contractors erected a temporary plywood wall between the two sections. Finally, on December 23rd, the major construction was complete, and we held the first day of our official Grand Opening of Park Home on December 26th, 2016. And, so far, in terms of traffic counts and sales volume, we have exceeded expectations and goals!”
In the midst of such well-organized chaos, Park Homes’ team has consistently risen to the challenge. Matt voiced his appreciation. “Scott Cessna is our CFO. He has been with us for about eight years. He was an integral part in bringing this project to fruition.
“Mark Bainey is the Operations Manager for our Electronics and Security installation department. He has been with us over 15 years. He did an outstanding job putting together the electronics systems (security, sound, access control, home theater rooms and networking) and overseeing the installation.
“Jamie Moyer is our general sales manager. She just started with us in July, but has had years of management experience at Victoria’s Secret and Hobby Lobby. She has done an incredible job of assembling and training our staff.
“Kathy Gates is our visual merchandising manager. She has only been with us since August, but had 10 years of furniture industry experience prior. We can’t say enough about the job she’s done to get the store and the displays looking as good as they do!”
The Muccitellis recruit staff, “Mostly by word of mouth and recommendations from other employees.”
Park Home sales staff are paid “Base salary plus commission. We offer medical benefits, 401K with company match, paid time off. And we also have various monthly contests which allow staff to earn additional bonuses.
“Some of our furniture sales staff are also designers. We offer in-home consultations to our customers for design and layout of furniture as well as design of home theaters and home automation systems. And our own technicians provide installation in customers’ new home constructions or existing homes.
“We plan to offer customer design workshops/seminars in-store. And we have live kitchens in our appliance department, a great opportunity to host traffic-increasing cooking events and demonstrations!
“Many of our suppliers’ reps are willing to chip in with in-store activities and sales training.”
Park Homes’ approach to customer service is all-inclusive. “Everyone in the company is focused on customer service! The sales team handles customer service up to and directly after the sale or delivery. After that, we have a customer service team dedicated to handling all service issues.
“We offer delivery on all our products.”
Of course Park Home is “environmentally concerned”. Matt assures us that “Every light in our new store is LED!”
Favorite media? “We mainly use TV, direct mail and digital. Knorr Marketing handles our marketing outreach. And they also created our website with our input. Managing it is a joint effort.
“We haven’t begun the e-commerce project on our website yet, but we plan to in the near future.”
The Muccitellis attend both the High Point and the Las Vegas Furniture Markets. “We also go to CEDIA Expo for our electronics department and we attend several different buying group meetings for our appliance department.
“Our knowledge on the products we carry sets us high above the competition. We are authorized dealers of many top brands. We carry all major appliances such as Whirlpool, Frigidaire and Sub Zero. We also carry a full line of mattresses from names like Sealy, Stearns and Foster and Tempur-Pedic. Our furniture brands include many industry leaders such as Ashley, England, Franklin, Flexsteel and Vaughn Basset, just to name a few.”
Recently inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame, Park Stores (Park Furniture & Appliances and Park Audio Plus) is an owner/member of the Appliance Dealers Cooperative, a buying group based in central New Jersey which offers purchasing power and warehousing capabilities to better serve its customers.
The Muccitelli’s community outreach is wide-reaching and eclectic! All three, John, Travis and Matt, love baseball both as players and spectators. Park Stores has fielded a team in the George B. Kelley Amateur Baseball Federation since 1974, with the enthusiastic participation of hundreds of young athletes. It is currently the second oldest team sponsor in that league.
Staff is encouraged to be involved in local events, organizations and charities, sometimes “on company time”. They’ve been active in and members of the Boards of Directors of AMTRAN, the Blair County Historical Society, the Booker T. Washington Revitalization Corporation, the Blair County Chamber of Commerce and the Blair County Builders Association.
“The future is bright, and we look forward to expanding into other markets,” said Matt.
Smart Home Stats:
The future of the “smart home” market in North America? From Transparency Market Research: Evaluated in 2013, the market had a value of 4.4 billion U.S. By 2020, that value should rise to 21 billion U.S. And worldwide, 20.38 billion in 2014 to 58.58 billion in 2020.
Janet Holt-Johnstone is retail editor at Furniture World Magazine.