The bell jingles upon entering, and Andy Parker is in the back, stuffing a mattress with layers of foam. He is methodical in his work. The man’s passion seeps from every zipper and stitch, spreading through his business and out the door into the community.
His showroom doesn’t resemble an IKEA warehouse, nor does it resemble a 1,000-bucks-a-pop furniture emporium. No, Parker’s business is unlike those beasts, and it’s easy to see his idea of the perfect family business.
Parker creates custom futons, and, possibly to avoid confusion to the contrary, aptly coined his business “Custom Futons.” And after 6 years in the business, he’s as happy as ever, because he’s still living his college dream.
“I worked at a futon shop while in college for four years after I bought a futon from there,” Parker said. “I had a good conversation with the guy who delivered it. I was looking for a job and (picked) his brain.”
Taking that job turned out to be the best decision of his entrepreneural life. He quickly found his love: futons. a multi-dimensional piece of furniture he finds to be both comfortable and useful in today’s economy.
“It’s functional and highly useful and practical,” Parker said. “I was really on board of the product’s concept for those reasons. It felt like a different kind of alternative approach to traditional furniture.
“I decided to move back to Dubuque after school in the summer of 2006,” he said. “I graduated in May of 2006 and had the doors open in June.”
An impressive turnaround, no doubt. And hard work took Andy Parker a long way, but it wasn’t all he needed.
“I took classes in the entrepreneurial program at Iowa. I’m really glad I decided to do those courses because the professors that taught them had a lot of practical experience. That certificate was focused on the actual running of businesses. The professors were business owners themselves.”
It gave Parker a head start. Combining his education and previous work experience, it was full steam ahead. But even then, signing his name on the lease was a nerve-racking, yet gratifying experience.
“I knew I was committing myself and it felt scary, but more so exciting,” Parker said. “It was the realization that I would do everything in my power for my dream to come true.”
And six years later, here he is. Custom Futons sits on the corner of John F. Kennedy Rd. and Asbury Rd. in Dubuque. With his door “swinging non-stop” at times, owning a small, family business is something to be proud of. It’s a difficult endeavor, to be sure, but once that initial shock was gone, the rewards arrived in droves.
Being successful didn’t come without sacrifices and difficulties, which makes his success all the more sweet.
“You hunker down and weather the storm,” he said. We decided how to either maintain or cut. You look at your costs and get them low. But you don’t do that and cut your advertising. If people don’t know you’re there, then you’re shooting yourself in your foot. That’s what I learned in my classes. Get your messages out there.”
Stay positive, he says. Whatever you have to do, do it. Success can be found with a bit of research and perserverence. And Custom Futons is alive today because of them.
But, of course, the product isn’t bad either. Parker’s showroom displays all different sizes, prices, and designs of futons. They’re cost effective and cater to many different consumers.
“Most college students get futons for the obvious reasons: the need to conserve space,” Parker said. “(customers) may spend twice here what they would on a futon at Walmart, but they get a piece that works for years past graduation.”
Parker’s friendly salesmanship and product quality give his store the welcoming feeling most small businesses have, but the family aspect is evident as well.
“The main reason why I came back to Dubuque was to be near family. This town is starting to flourish in ways that will benefit the business.”
And he’s here to stay. Parker plans to soon implement an online store, staying with the times. But he says nothing beats the atmosphere of a locally-owned, small business.
And, after visiting his store, it’s hard to disagree.