How to Inject a Little Vegas Into Your Business: the Jordan’s Furniture Story

My experience with Jordan’s Furniture began when I visited the Framingham, MA, store a while back to find a sofa for my house. I thought I was headed into a typical furniture store, but instead, it was like stepping into a crazy alternate universe where there were big screen TVs and recliners at every turn. Jordan’s doesn’t feel quite like a store, but it doesn’t feel quite like a casino—it’s somewhere in between. Or perhaps it’s both (storsino?). To make the experience even more fantastically bizarre, the interior is made to look like the French Quarter in New Orleans; there’s even a sharply dressed mannequin moving to and fro in a rocking chair on one of the faux balconies (if my memory serves me correctly, he’s even got a pipe). Haunting, yet strangely appealing. Throw in a Massachusetts staple like Kelly’s Roast Beef for a post-shopping food fix, a few gumball machines for the kids, and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind retail experience designed to appeal to most people.

Shopping at Jordan’s is truly a multi-sensory experience. So who thought shopping for furniture should feel more like visiting an amusement park? Eliot Tatelman and his brother, the entrepreneurs behind the chain that was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway in 1999. It was Eliot’s idea to make shopping for furniture more fun. Curiously, it wasn’t how he started out. Many years back, Eliot and his brother had taken over their grandfather’s furniture store in Waltham, Massachusetts. Back then, there were no pipe-smoking mannequins in the entry or big screen TV’s to captivate customers. However, there was great service, and knowledge of the furniture business. But Eliot wanted to make Jordan’s stand out from the competition. So what did Eliot do? He looked outside of his industry for inspiration, and his gaze fell squarely on Las Vegas.

What does Las Vegas have to do with furniture? Nothing. But that was the whole point. Eliot wasn’t trying to create the next Las Vegas; he was trying to use the same tactics to grow a chain called Jordan’s by bringing people in the door for more than just furniture shopping. He wanted to make Jordan’s a destination.

With everything from an amusement ride to huge IMAX theaters, each Jordan’s location has an attraction, and it never has anything to do with furniture. It’s all about the entertainment and experience. They purposely place the attractions in the middle so you have to walk through half of the store to go see the movie in 3D. Then when you leave, and walk through the other half, there are no signs telling you where to go. You get disoriented like you do in a Las Vegas casino and end up, well, shopping. It’s brilliant.

The parallels with Vegas continue. Eliot followed the same business model Vegas did: once entertainment was not enough, he added food to the list of offerings at each location. Going one step further, one store now has a trapeze school.

Eliot’s message at the EO event was simple: stop paying attention to your industry and competition and see what those outside of it doing to be successful. When competition gets fierce, don’t lock your gaze inside of your own realm of experience—look outside of it to get inspired and make your business stand out.